What I Hope to Learn

This summer I hope to learn more about culturally sustaining pedagogies (CSPs) and how they function in relation to young black girls. A CSP’s main goal is to encourage and sustain “linguistic, literate, and cultural pluralism” as a key element of education in order to advance positive social change (Alim & Paris 2017). Culturally sustaining pedagogy operates in settings where education is essential in preserving the cultures of communities that have continuously been negatively affected by schooling. Essentially by presenting schooling as a place for sustaining ways of existence for communities of color as opposed to wiping them out, CSP is acting in response to the variety of ways the school system has continued to function as a cog in the colonial machine (Alim & Paris 2017). The goal of CSP is to disrupt anti-indigeneity, anti-blackness, and anti-brownness myths/stereotypes that are prevalent in the United States and other colonial nation-state’s educational systems (Alexander 2007, Dumas, 2014, Dumas & ross, 2016; S. Lee, 2015; Lomawaima & McCarty, 2006; Woodson 2000). The organization that I’m working, although not a school environment, is still an educational space and I hope to see how a stimulating arena for black female youth is cultivated as well as how that affects their levels of self-efficacy. I truly seek to understand how both educational methods and subject matter affect black students’ self-efficacy and how that in turn affects their community. I strive to learn about this sentiment through asking questions such as “How are they using “new media” to communicate their thoughts and ideas about their community in order to facilitate change?  How are they using “new media” amongst themselves in order to present individual forms of self-expression in order to change their self-efficacy and community relationships? How does a black student’s self-confidence in their ability to facilitate community change through “new media” progress overtime? What factors affects those changes?  If students already possess high levels of self-confidence in their social media capabilities how was it gained? ”. Furthermore, I would like to turn my focus to learning about both the “journey” aspect of this research as well as the “product” aspect. As I am a part of the team that helps educate these participants on how they can put their thoughts and emotions into a digital format and then present it to the outside world, I am continuously learning these methods while executing them at the same time. I want to learn how we can help black girls utilize digital media in order to take charge of their own narratives within a co-constructed space.  

As mentioned in previous posts, I’ve conducted research concerning black women on college campuses, my final presentation explored the concept of hospitality via “inclusion” programs in relation to reported experiences of black women on predominantly white college campuses. According to Khalilah Annette Shabazz (2015), targeted academic advising, mentoring, availability of a staff or faculty member, can all be considered part of institutional support programs related to inclusion. This research involved interviewing groups of Black women in college-prep programs such as RISE and BRIDGES in an effort to understand how these programs work to support community-building for these women in particular. Furthermore, although differing in the fact that this research was conducted with black women on a college campus rather than black women at a high school, conducting research on this topic has allowed me to gain more knowledge concerning community-building as well as inclusion efforts. Additionally, the research I am conducting shares similarities with research conducted in the text I discuss in my literature review. I largely focus on the concept/pedologic theory Culturally Sustaining Pedology (CSP) whose main goal is to work within the arena of education, and rather than work to erase a community culture instead it works to preserve it (Alim & Paris, 2015: Paris 2012: Paris & Alim, 2014). This methodology factors heavily into to my research project because as I work to accomplish elements of collaborative ethnography, it’s important that the views and thoughts of the stakeholders within my work are constantly deemed essential. My goal is not to erase there thought processes but bring them to light and display their validity. Another element within CSP is how to teachers interpret performance of resistances. ‘Performances of resistance’ are “ a mode of communication or a particular, directed way of responding to the negative gaze, the degrading treatment, and the hurtful assumptions many youths of color receive from others, peers and adults alike” (Kinloch 2017, pg. 27). In the research paper, “You Ain’t Making Me Write”, Valerie Kinloch, a teacher conducting research describes how one of her students, a black female ‘performs a narrative of resistance’ in reaction the adverse feelings of exclusion generated by the everyday communications that take place between her and fellow students as well school educators and administrators (Kinloch 2017) Since I will be utilizing teacher-research methodologies, how I interpret certain acts of resistance is key.  I must not be “put off” by these acts but view them as invitations into engaging with these students in an effort to co-construct a classroom environment that is supportive of a variety of perspectives (Kinloch 2017).  

I think the acknowledgment of various forms of literacies and building off that has been beneficial for the organization that I am working with and, therefore, is beneficial for my research project itself. “For people of color have always theorized – but in forms quite different from the Western form of abstract logic. And I am inclined to say that our theorizing (and I intentionally use the verb rather than the noun) is often in narrative forms, in the stories we create, in riddles and proverbs, in the play with language, since dynamic rather than fixed ideas seem more to our liking (Christian 2).” Through H.Y.P.E. media workshops, youth are given the opportunity to work alongside Pitt students, like myself, and faculty in order to cultivate certain skills. As they are provided with the opportunity to grow skills in areas such as print media, digital composition, design, photo-editing, video essays, and conducting interviews, they will be able to figure out how they want to portray their community to the outside world. Furthermore, through critically analyzing how their community is currently portrayed and then supplying them with the tools to change that portrayal, these youth will be empowered to put out their own personal experiences in a more authentic fashion. In these ways, they gain the ability to achieve the justice their community has been wrongfully denied on their own terms. Part of my research will include using my passion for music and poetry. I plan to use the curricular design portion of my project to consider explorations for these art forms to aid the narrative shift H.Y.P.E. media cultivates. When developing the curriculum, I would first provide each student copies of different forms of poetry from various texts written by black writers such as Erica Hunt and Dawn Lundy Martin’s Letters to the Future: Black Women and Radical Writing, Justin Phillip Reed’s Indecency,  Sonia Sanchez’s Shake Loose My Skin, and Tyrone Williams’s Howell. Providing the youth with these texts exposes them to the myriad ways black writers have chosen to express themselves specifically in poetry and hopefully they will draw some inspiration from these works. Poetry is an art form that is very fluid and depending on how you choose to write can be less restrictive than other forms of writing. This aspect will hopefully allow the students to be more creative with their final products. I would also distribute handouts that discuss the specifics of poetics including different forms and how to improve their poetry writing skills. They will then be given the opportunity to take their creations to a digital format/platform which will give them the opportunity to reach a wider audience and cultivate farther-reaching connections. 

When thinking about creating helpful interpersonal connections in relation to my research I immediately reflect on the connection I had already made in order to get this present research opportunity I’m currently pursuing. Dr. Scott, who is the head of H.Y.P.E media, has been my professor on multiple occasions, I’ve conducted past research with her, and I have operated as an intern at one of the other organizations she heads known as DBLAC. She is actually the one who made me aware of this research opportunity in the first place. Over just a few years I have manage to cultivate a deep connection with her as my mentor which has led me to obtain countless opportunities. Moreover, H.Y.P.E. media itself already operates as a very tight knit family unity and, therefore, I already feel as if I’ve already made all the connections I wish to make. Each time we meet, we act as a sisterhood that “hypes” each other up. I know that I have support from each and every person who is a part of this H.Y.P.E. media’s summer session. As I am a Public and Professional Writing major, this upcoming spring semester, I plan on taking a required class that focuses on community research and I would like to continue to my research with the same organization. There is also a strong chance that I will be continuing my research into fall as well.  

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