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Visiting Washington, D.C.
In Event: Regarding Blackness and Maleness Lovingly: Critically Conscious Reflections From Women Teachers, Teacher Educators, and School-Community Activists
Background, Objectives, and Theoretical Perspectives
In recent months, the names of adolescents who have been victims of police shootings have assumed a seemingly permanent place in the news headlines and media platforms. The bodies of these mostly Black, mostly male youth who are at the center of these news stories are repeatedly viewed, interpreted, and responded to as sources of suspicion, a pattern that has been documented and discussed across academic research and the popular press for decades (Blow, 2014; Ferguson, 2001; Youdell, 2003). For some youth, labeling of their social and cultural practices – such as their choice of clothing, styles of interaction and postures, and the places they occupy – through the prism of suspicion begins in childhood, long before they enter adolescence.
In this paper, I will elucidate the ways that care was embedded in the pedagogical practices at an alternative to detention program where the embodied ways of being of adolescents is regarded not with suspicion, but with an assumption of capacity and capability. This analysis expands existing discourses about care (Noddings, 2003; Valenzuela, 1999) and cultural relevance (Knight, 2010; Watson, Sealey-Ruiz, & Jackson, 2014) in pedagogy by focusing on how Voices staff attended to Black youths’ affect and aesthetic experiences in making and reshaping a nurturing educational space with and for them.
Context and Methods
Voices is an alternative to detention program that provides educational opportunities, mental health support, school monitoring, and enrichment services for youth who have been arrested and court-mandated to attend and participate in their after-school programming. Nearly all of the youth who referred to Voices are youth of color, mostly Black, mostly New York City.
My research team and I have held dual roles as we facilitated some of the enrichment workshops while also documenting the ways in which the court-involved youth participate in, engage with, and mediate their experiences at Voices. We have witnessed, on a consistent basis, the many ways that youth involved with Voices are cared for through the pedagogical practices enacted by all members of the diverse staff, even and especially in the face of the exigent circumstances that many of the youth face - circumstances that may not always be easily resolved.
For the adult staff members at Voices, to re-member is to hold with the same integrity the goals set for them by external forces such as funders and city regulations alongside the smaller, everyday, occasionally fleeting glimpses of humanity – laughter, playfulness, personal victory, interpersonal connection, vulnerability, joy – for which there aren’t easy measures. Found in the pedagogical practices of the educators as well as the social workers, administrative staff, youth advocates, and mentors, alike, is a commitment to creating opportunities that matter to youth in the program, but also cultivating experiences in which these youth matter. They do so by attending to institutional goals, such as academics and attendance, as well as the emotional contours of being human.