Sr. JoAnna Boudreaux earned her Master’s degree in Sociology and is currently a part of the Ph.D program in the Department of Communication and Film at the University of Memphis. She is also a member of the Memphis chapter of the Sisterhood of Salaam-Shalom. Sr. JoAnna discusses how growing up in Memphis in the 80s influenced her view of racial identity and her desire to explore different beliefs which eventually lead her to Islam’s message of social justice and racial equality. Her Ph.D dissertation will focus on second generation American Muslim mothers.
Interviewed by Maryam Taysir
Can you briefly introduce yourself?
I am JoAnna Boudreaux. I have spent most of my life in Memphis. My father is a United States Air Force Veteran who retired here when I was five years old. He is part French and part Native American/white. He met my mother while stationed in Thailand during the Vietnam War. I grew up in Memphis during the 1980s. Back then, it was a very racially dichotomous space. You were either black or you were white. I am neither. I think of myself as racially ambiguous. I have always felt like a misfit and spent most of my teen years reading different philosophers and researching different religions. Islam appealed to me because it offered a message of social justice and racial equality. It would take me many, many years to understand that Muslims are as complex and nuanced as any other group of people. The Muslim community is not a social utopia and suffers from the same issues of classism, racism, colorism, ethnocentrism, sexism, etc.. that affects every other community.
I married at age 19 and had five children by the time I was 27. With the support and encouragement of my husband, I started college at 36. While taking classes I found myself gravitating towards a desire to address the same issues I have always struggled with: understanding the self, searching for meaning and truth, gender expectations, injustice, racism, how life circumstances inform a person’s identity and worldview, etc.… Eventually, I majored in Sociology and minored in English, Women’s Studies, and African-American Studies. I was a BA/MA student. After I earned a Master’s degree in Sociology I joined the Ph.D. program in the Department of Communication and Film where I define myself as a Critical Culture scholar. I am also working toward a Graduate Certificate in Women’s and Gender Studies. I have taught Sociology 1010, Sociology of Marriage and Family, and a Research Methods Lab. This fall, I am teaching an Oral Communication course. My dissertation will focus on second generation American Muslim mothers and how we navigate