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Understanding Young Black Males: Notes on Education , Hope, and A Search Past Silence. David E. Kirkland, PhD AUTHOR  ACTIVIST  EDUCATOR  CULTURAL CRITIC  THINKER Executive Director, Center for Applied & Inclusive Teaching and Learning in Arts and Humanities

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understanding young black males notes on education hope and a search past silence

Understanding Young Black Males:Notes on Education, Hope, and A Search Past Silence

David E. Kirkland, PhD

AUTHOR  ACTIVIST  EDUCATOR CULTURAL CRITIC  THINKER

Executive Director, Center for Applied & Inclusive Teaching and Learning in Arts and Humanities

Associate Professor of English & Urban Education

Core Faculty, African American & African Studies

Michigan State University

Email: davidekirkland@gmail.com

Twitter: @davidekirkland

Blog: davidekirkland.wordpress.com

objective 1
Objective #1

To raise awareness of the condition of young Black men in contemporary society . . .

objective 2
Objective #2

To provide a humanizing narrative of young Black men that illustrates the sensitivities and intimacies that shape his ways with words . . .

objective 3
Objective #3

To provide suggestions for effectively engaging young Black men in the transformative project of education on his terms for social healing and for social justice . . .

slide5

I am a young Black man . . .

Searching Past Silence Deals with the Ability to Tell Your Story on Your Terms

I am from Detroit!

slide7

“Now silence is the taming of voice, the erasure of sound. . . there are many versions of silence that underwrite Black male language . . . There is the act of being silenced, which splinters into two categories—forced silence (being made to shut up) and unforced silence (never being heard). There is also the silent dialect of Black men, the choice not speak, a language of calm and quiet against the loud breezes of inequity.”

language and power linguistic capital
Language and Power“Linguistic Capital”
  • Language can be used (and is used) as a social/cultural/political currency for the exchange of values, beliefs, dispositions, etc. It is also an essential part of who we are.
  • Some languages are valued more than others; therefore, certain individuals are perceived to have greater worth in society than others.
  • The value of language is constantly shifting, amended by the elite to reflect them (their languages, interests, etc).
key issues concerns the consequences of language politics
Key Issues/Concerns“The Consequences of Language Politics”
  • Hegemony
    • The success of the dominant group in projecting their values, dispositions, interests, etc. whereby the masses consent to multiple forms of their oppression
  • Multiple Forms of Oppression
    • Silencings, fears and hatreds of self/others, feelings of inferiority/superiority and entitlement/disentitlement
  • Benign Ideologies
    • Missionary Models/Deficit Theories
derrick s song u turn
Derrick’s Song“U Turn”
  • U turn
  • left b Hind
  • Legs sprawl ing on top of Black back
  • Mountains
  • Rivers that Run Deep
  • Like Sheba’s Queens and she Loves
  • Open pours
  • inside empty cups that run over
  • hope like Escalades
  • that phaint in Darkness
  • that phreeze in Night
  • that phick in morning, morning
  • Uprising
  • Lite skin white men
  • Blues is my brothers
  • Black is my Berry
  • Sweet is my juice
  • So U turn back to me
  • I re turn back to U
  • I die daily 4 U
derrick s song u turn1
Derrick’s Song“U Turn”
  • U turn
  • left b Hind
  • Legs sprawl ingon top of Black back (broken English; use correctly)
  • Mountains
  • Rivers that Run Deep
  • Like Sheba’s Queens and she Loves
  • Open pours (You mean pores)
  • inside empty cups that run over
  • hope like Escalades
  • that phaint in Darkness
  • that phreeze in Night
  • that phick in morning, morning
  • Uprising
  • Lite skin white men (sp-light)
  • Blues is my brothers
  • Black is my Berry
  • Sweet is my juice
  • SoUturn back to me
  • I re turn back toU
  • I die daily 4 U (lazy, you need to spell out)
the chronic decline of black males literacy proficiency
The Chronic Decline of Black Males Literacy Proficiency

The Statistical Narrative

  • Nearly 70% of Black fourth grade boys read below grade level, compared with 27% of White children (NAEP, 2011).
    • Even Hispanic and Asian fourth graders fared better on reading exams than Black males, although English is their second language.
    • Black males are at the bottom or near the bottom of all academic achievement categories and are grossly over-represented among school suspensions, dropouts, and special education tracks (Noguera, 2003).
  • Approximately12% of Black males test proficiently in reading compared to 40% of other American youth (NAEP, 2011).
  • Nearly 40% of Black males will be jobless, either unemployed or incarcerated, by 2020 (The Center for the Study of Social Policy, 1993).
  • Young Black men (ages 10-14) have shown the largest increase in suicide rates since 1980 compared to other youth groups by sex and ethnicity, increasing 180% (US Department of Health and Human Services, 2004).
    • Among 15-19 year old Black males, suicide rates (since 1980) have increased by 80% (Poussaint & Alexander, 2000).
    • Black male aretwice as likely to die before the age of 45 as a White male (Roper, 1991; Spivak, Prothrow-Stith, & Hausman, 1988).
the rich life of literacy among black males
The Rich Life of Literacy Among Black Males

The Interpretive Narrative

  • Scholarship consistently points out that youth, regardless of race or gender, actively read and write (e.g., reading magazines, writing blogs, performing raps and identities, and so forth) (Alvermann & Marshall, 2008; Mahiri, 2004).
  • Connor (1995) argues that Black males have long performedmanhood symbolically.
    • These symbols tend to gain meaning in Black male social circles, particularly in the cultures of hip hop and sports (Cooks, 2004; Dimitriadis, 2001; Johnson & Roberts, 1999; Morrell & Duncan-Andrade, 2002).
    • The symbol systems sanction urban poetry and spoken word as well as tattoos and tags and raps, all of which are communicative genres “rooted in the Black Oral Tradition of tonal semantics, narrativizing, signification/signifyin, the Dozens/playin the Dozens, Africanized syntax, and other communicative practices” (Smitherman, 1997/1998, p. 269).
  • Because of what she sees as the “teeming life of literacy” among Black males, Dyson (2003) suggests that the literacy gap is an aberration that reflects more accurately cultural derisions in our society than achievement ones
silenced
Silenced

Silence for Shawn, unlike the “freedom” of speech, was not optional; it was unwritten racial law—mandated, a privilege unearned.

derrick s song u turn2
Derrick’s Song“U Turn”
  • U turn
  • left b Hind
  • Legs sprawl ing on top of Black back
  • Mountains
  • Rivers that Run Deep
  • Like Sheba’s Queens and she Loves
  • Open pours
  • inside empty cups that run over
  • hope like Escalades
  • that phaint in Darkness
  • that phreeze in Night
  • that phick in morning, morning
  • Uprising
  • Lite skin white men
  • Blues is my brothers
  • Black is my Berry
  • Sweet is my juice
  • So U turn back to me
  • I re turn back to U
  • I die daily 4 U
the literacy of black males
The Literacy of Black Males

“The more we know about who we serve the more we’ll know how to serve them.”—Pedro Noguera

The needs of your students are, in effect, the needs of your teachers.

what is the literacy of b lack males
What is the Literacy of Black Males?
  • An ontological complexity tied to both his being and his becoming
  • The potential of his possibilities anchored to his past, tied and frozen to his soul, yet ever-seeking to escape the limits of his defi(n)ed being
  • Not just they ways he reads and writes, but they hows and whys he reads and writes . . .
another kind of masculine more than a dick thang
“Another Kind of Masculine”: More than a DickThang

“These were all versions of masculinity . . . They were all images of God in his continuous creation.Yet all did not point to Adam or the thunders of Ares. Some . . . followed the morning breeze, floated like clouds against the easy wind,  and read books because young Black men read books too.”

slide21
RACE

“It is important to understand race as an element of history not to be separated from the bound compartments of time to which it is forever tied.”

slide22

We would hear everything he is because his voice, his literacy is tied to his identity as a Black males.

slide23

“The study of literacy is incomplete until it folds together the doing and the being, the struggle and the sacrifice—unless the story of literacy becomes the story of us, the literate. How does she or he come to be whoever she or he is? What stories are invented in the life of being that finds their way through the pen and through the creases of words practiced?”

slide24

What does this notion of literacy mean in terms of transforming education for Black males?

recommendation 1
Recommendation #1

Don’t Limit Our Students to the Stories of Now . . .

recommendation 2
Recommendation #2

Rethink the Basics . . .

(They are NOT reading, writing, and arithmetic.)

slide27

Pleasure

Play

Curiosity

Creativity

recommendation 3
Recommendation #3

Rethink the Classroom . . .

slide29

Dime Piece

=

  • Objectifying Women
  • Cheapening Women
  • Putting Women on the Auction Block
recommendation 4
Recommendation #4

Interrogate Assumptions about the Status Quo . . .

(Instead of failing students, let’s think about how we are failing students.)

recommendation 5
Recommendation #5

Teach Like Your Life Depends on It . . .

Because theirs too often do!

thank you
THANK YOU

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