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Chapter 4: Humanizing the Black Immigrant Body: Envisioning Diaspora Literacies of Youth and Young Adults from West African Countries


by Vaughn W. M. Watson & Michelle G. Knight-Manuel - 2020

Background / Context: This conceptual essay contributes to recent education research on immigrant youth from West African countries that examines the interplay of popularized narratives of immigrant youth and young adults, and their Diasporic literacy practices. Specifically, we examine embodied Diaspora literacies as affirming and extending presences and absences of Black immigrant bodies across two contexts: an after-school African Club, and a qualitative inquiry of civic learning and action-taking of immigrant youth and young adults from West African countries.

Purpose: We theorize in this conceptual essay the interplay of the humanity of Black immigrant youth and young adults and their embodied Diaspora literacy practices. We highlight possibilities for research, literacy teaching, and teacher education when intentionally naming, affirming, and building with the humanity of Black immigrant youth and young adults from West African countries—what we conceptualize as humanizing the Black immigrant body. We conceptualize humanizing the Black immigrant body as an enacting of embodied Diaspora literacies. In theorizing embodied Diaspora literacies, we build with African Indigenous lensings, and African, Black, and Chicana/Latina feminisms. We further contextualize humanizing the Black immigrant body as an enacting of embodied Diaspora literacies expressed in the creative and artistic practices and artifacts of artists, literary authors, playwrights, and youth and young adults who have long authored and told narratives that affirm, extend, and historicize the strengths of Black immigrant communities.

Interpretive Analysis: We highlight in this conceptual essay the urgency of humanizing the Black immigrant body across four moments, or tellings of embodied Diaspora literacies. Our use of Diasporic tellings, an intentional naming and humanizing research approach, draws on the words of Chinua Achebe, the Nigerian author who reflected on the urgency of a global “balance of stories.” We examine four Diasporic tellings: (1) youth in an African Club in a high school in New York City attending an off-Broadway play authored by a daughter of Ghanaian immigrants, (2) participating in a group discussion following the play, and (3) engaging in Youth Participatory Action Research inquiries; and (4) youth and young adults from West African countries discussing their creative and artistic embodied Diaspora literacies, and civic learning and action-taking across contexts of peers, schooling, and families.

Conclusion / Recommendations: We theorize humanizing the Black immigrant body as a vibrant, necessary research and teaching stance to recognize the humanity of Black immigrant youth who daily negotiate and render visible their language and literacy practices. These practices comprise the coalescing of Black immigrant bodies, discursive perspectives, and material artifacts of teaching and learning, and their racialized, social, and educational experiences across contexts of schools and communities. These Diasporic tellings provide important insights for productive approaches in research, teaching, and teacher education with youth and young adults making sense of the lives of Black immigrants, across contexts of literacy learning and lived experiences that meaningfully recognize the humanity of Black immigrant youth from West African countries.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 122 Number 13, 2020, p. -
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 23367, Date Accessed: 10/22/2020 7:24:08 PM

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About the Author
  • Vaughn Watson
    Michigan State University, College of Education
    E-mail Author
    VAUGHN W. M. WATSON, Ed.D., is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Teacher Education at Michigan State University. Watson’s research examines the interplay of literacy learning, civic learning and action, and qualitative participatory research methodologies with communities of color across schooling and community contexts. He has published research findings in journals including the American Educational Research Journal, the Review of Research in Education, Teachers College Record, and Research in the Teaching of English.
  • Michelle Knight-Manuel
    Teachers College, Columbia University
    E-mail Author
    MICHELLE G. KNIGHT-MANUEL, Ph.D., is a Professor at Teachers College, Columbia University. Her areas of expertise include college readiness and access, immigrant youth’s civic engagement, and culturally relevant-sustaining teacher preparation. Knight-Manuel’s current research examines immigrant youth’s notions of (non)belonging and their civic engagement as members of local/global communities. Recent publications include Classroom Cultures: Equitable Schooling for Racially Diverse Youth (with Joanne Marciano) and “Color does not equal consciousness”: Educators of Color learning to enact a sociopolitical consciousness (with Iesha Jackson).
 
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