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Coming from the Heart: African American Students, Literacy Stories, and Rhetorical Education Elaine B. Richardson. Kevin Robinson – Ethos, Pathos & Invention Camesha White – Style & Arrangement Kathlyn Gwaltney – Delivery & Logos . Elaine B. Richardson:.
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Kevin Robinson – Ethos, Pathos &
Camesha White – Style & Arrangement
Kathlyn Gwaltney – Delivery & Logos
“My first monograph African American Literacies explores the use of African American Language and Literacy traditions in the teaching of literacy and composition. This point of view begins with the premise that African Americans have language and literacy traditions that are intellectually worthy and that represent particular ways of being in the world.”
QUOTE 1: My analysis and interpretation of the students’ texts and contexts is informed by African American-centered language, rhetoric, and composition theory. (pg. 160)
EXPLANATION: The foundation of Richardson’s work and conclusions center of how African Americans speak, read, and write to affect achievement, empowerment and change. This passage establishes the author’s credibility by convincing the audience that her research is relative.
QUOTE 2: My work extends previous work on AAVE discourse patterns because it analyzes students’ “ways with words,” as a means of figuring out how to use Black discourses more forcefully and powerfully, to help students to acquire vernacular discourses of the Black literacy tradition that helped to change this nation, and to develop Blackademic writing. (pg. 162)
EXPLANATION: Here, the author explains her research in African American Vernacular English and how it deals with this distinctive Black speech that is linked to a tradition of African American literature and culturally specific writing. Again, Richardson is showing her credentials as a person who has done her homework, and even charted new ground, in this area of study.
QUOTE 1: Although it is a fact that many people of African ancestry do not identify with African American culture, hardly any of us can escape the aura of race and class issues since they are interwoven into the culture fabric of or society. (pg. 155)
EXPLANATION: One may be African American or Black American, but he or she isn’t directly from Africa; the individual is from America and has never stepped foot in Africa. Although this is true, society forces us to believe otherwise and we fall into the opinions and beliefs of others. This is when stereotypes begin to form.
QUOTE 2: Another important theme circulating in various stories about literacy in American culture is reflected in a well-known childhood Black folk rhyme that sums up a truth that critical race theorists … are paid great sums to stretch out into lengthy texts and speeches:
If you black, get back
If you brown, stick around
If you yellow, you mellow
If you white, you right (pg. 156)
EXPLANATION: This saying echoes a common belief that African American literacy is not respected in America. America has a vast cultural divide, and Richardson pushes this emotional button with her audience by illuminating how the cultures of the different races are viewed when compared with the mainstream or white culture.
QUOTE 3: Stucky (1991) makes a critical point when she asks if the possibility exists that the same tool (literacy) that has been used to oppress can be used to empower? To heal the scars of slavery, the silencing, the othering, the devoicing, the unnecessary cultural erasure of African American students, we must begin writing new stories of African American literacy and rhetorical education. (pg. 159)
EXPLANATION: Regardless of past racial injustices, America can possibly repair the damage by using literacy to help uplift and educate instead of to exploit and separate. Richardson is appealing to her readers to help revitalize African American literacy and rhetoric education.
QUOTE 4: In reflecting on the work he put in his paper and the 2.0 grade he got, Mickey says, “She said [the instructor] it wasn’t clear. But I mean how could it be when it was deep? … Mickey’s words point to the complexity of living in a society struggling to balance the scales. The scales contain life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness (or the distribution of wealth and resources) on one side, and race/culture, gender, and class on the other. (pg. 165)
EXPLANATION: One of the students Richardson interviewed talked about the C grade on his paper due to errors in grammar and clarity. However, he thought that the content should have taken precedence over any cosmetic deficiencies. She used the story to illustrate the inequities of a society that is still separated in its cultural views. The author makes it personal by putting a face and feeling to her point.
QUOTE 1: Music, such as the blues, jazz, and Hip Hop, represents forms of creativity within free yet definite patterns that transmit meaning through sound. (pg. 158)
EXPLANATION: Instead of just words, there is a beat added, or a tune. Imagine a jingle or a commercial as if someone just simply read the words/script to you. It wouldn’t be as entertaining or the point wouldn’t get across to you because you wouldn’t just simply turn the channel. We all have our own style; bottom line: it gets the point across.
QUOTE 2: What I am referring to here as “closet speaking/writing” is equivalent to “fronting.” A related if not similar strategy is “racelessness.” Fordham defines this strategy as one that high-achieving students use as a survival strategy in environments that are based in dominant monocultural ideologies. (pg. 160)
EXPLANATION: Here the individual has no identity, or I would say that there is a fake identity portrayed. One is only attempting to please society by choosing a style that is acceptable to society. The individual is choosing the safe/harmless way out.
QUOTE 3: Once students realize that writing their words is not acceptable, stereotype threat sets in and they get caught between two worlds, writing something that is neither AAVE nor academic English but something else, referred to by interlanguage. (pg. 163)
EXPLANATION: When one begins to realize that they cannot write what they want, it somewhat “cramps” their style. It is also true that no one wants to give in to the stereotype. So therefore one finds them self unsure and caught between the two styles. While being caught w/in the two, a new style is then created.
QUOTE 4: Mickey tries to validate his ideas and perspective by incorporating language from the register of research in his use of the terms data and found, terms associated with objectivity and credibility. He mixes the Black style with the research register in this way because use of the Black style is usually elevated as “emotionality” rather than “rationality.” (pg. 165)
EXPLANATION: He searches for an “accepted” way of stating his point. He mixes his style w/society’s style with hopes that it will make his paper seem more balanced/collected and less passionate.
QUOTE 1: There is a lot to be said about an academic system that encourages instructors to reward structure over originality. In the Black rhetorical tradition, students are challenged to do they own thang with the form. (pg. 167)
EXPLANATION: Most schools would prefer that things be done the correct way, the “accepted” way. Arranging things your way isn’t exactly the best way to get an “A.” However, students do feel as if doing things their way will give them a better chance at being more persuasive.
QUOTE 2: After students were trained to recognize two mainstream patterns of text organization and two vernacular-based organization patterns, students preferred vernacular-based organization patterns (narrative interspersion and circumlocution) in both academic and conversational tasks. (pg. 162)
EXPLANATION: After being introduced ... the students would rather use a dialect that is more common and everyday instead of going along with the attitudes and practices of others. When being vernacular, there is little thought, you can just simply go with the flow. The students prefer an indirect approach.
QUOTE 1: In fact, literacy stories permeate the history of Black people in the twentieth century. In the enslavement era, those stories concerned laws against Africans learning to read and write, and they were transmitted by word of mouth and through enslavement narratives. (pg. 156)
EXPLANATION: During slavery, Africans told their stories orally, sidestepping laws against teaching slaves to read and write. African American literacy stories grew from this early form of delivery to the oral discourse and printed word you see today.
QUOTE 2: The experiences of slavery and oppression and retention and reinterpretation of African cultural forms in the American context influence these orientations. One example of a distinct African orientation to knowledge can be found in sound culture. … Pleas conveyed through sound span the entire spectrum of African American experience. Specific examples can be found in Black discourse practices such as tonal semantics. (pg. 158)
EXPLANATION: Another way to deliver or pass down African American culture was through music. Song became another way of expressing culture. Today, hip hop (or rap music), for example, has influenced Black discourse in our times.
QUOTE 1: I do not mean here to suggest that White teachers who practice bashing Black cultural learning styles damage Black students. I mean that all teachers who have not had training in linguistic diversity and literacy education lack the skills necessary to support culturally relevant learning. (pg. 158)
EXPLANATION: The author says that if teachers don’t have a background in AAVE or African American literacy education, they will logically fall short in educating Black students. This has been the basis for the argument for some school districts who wanted to include Ebonics in their language curriculums.
QUOTE 2: … Woodson held that omitting the linguistic history of “the broken-down African tongue” (i.e., AAVE) from the curriculum teaches the African American to despise her mother tongue. Furthermore, Black students were directly taught to hate Black speech, which indirectly taught them to hate themselves. Thus, the African American-centered approach to literacy research and education seeks to advise and revise the story of miseducation in Black students’ literacy education. (pg. 161)
EXPLANATION: Traditionally, African Americans and Whites who wanted Blacks to assimilate into the mainstream disparaged Black speech in favor of the speech patterns of white society. Unfortunately, that form of self-hate did more to damage Black self esteem than uplift. Today, it holds that integrating AAVE into literacy education respects the culture as well as informs the student.
QUOTE 3: …“Ain’t nothing new under the sun. Everything you did has already been done.” What I am calling African American-centered literacy practice is really nothing more than bringing to the center that which has been common knowledge in traditional African American ways of knowing but not in mainstream classrooms. Many African Americans exploit the tradition of Nommo … the connection amonglanguage use, rhetorical posture, and ideological stance. (pg. 169)
EXPLANATION: Culturally, African Americans inherited the power of storytelling and influential speech from Africa. Thus, the movement toward African American literacy is a means of “going back to the future.” If you recognize African traditions for speech, literacy and writing then you will understand how it is linked to the identity of the African American. This concept is often missing from mainstream education.
QUOTE 1: While one of the goals of the study presented here was to make visible vernacular discourse/rhetorical patterns and strategies in students’ texts, the scope of identified strategies and policies is broader. … this essay focuses attention on the academic personas acquired by two African American students. (pg. 155)
EXPLANATION: The author’s research sought to go beyond highlighting the distinct patterns of African American speech, writing or literacy. She wants to show the results of inclusion and exclusion in mainstream versus cultural specific literacy. Her method of research enhances the usefulness of the knowledge by making it fresh and particular to this discourse.
QUOTE 2: The two students discussed here are a male and female, Mickey and Rhonda . … They were selected from demographic surveys distributed to a beginning writing class that had as its focus the literatures of many ethnic groups … I interviewed the students twice individually and once together. … I asked both participants the same set of questions but left them free to change topics … I observed their classes over the semester and analyzed pieces of their writing. (pg. 159)
EXPLANATION: Richardson was careful to make her research thorough and objective, allowing for scientific selection of the subjects involved but offering some latitude in their responses. Her audience will accept her conclusions because of the work involved to conduct unbiased data gathering.
QUOTE 3: A fundamental aspect of [African American rhetorics and AAVE-oriented] research has been to identify and define Black discourse styles or Black rhetorical patterns as these manifest themselves in AAVE speaking students’ texts. Most of this research has sought to explore and expand the literacies of AAVE-oriented students by having a deeper understanding of what informs the students’ approaches to literacy. (pg. 161)
EXPLANATION: Researchers like Richardson who have sought information concerning culturally specific Black speech, writing and literacy usually focus on academic papers. Ultimately, this research seeks to enhance AAVE literacy by identifying what motivates African American students when they engage in literary pursuits. Richardson not only told her audience how she researched but she identified her goal. This helps her readers connect with her point of view.