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A Call for All Black Lives

Mon, April 16, 10:35am to 12:05pm, Millennium Broadway New York Times Square, Floor: Third Floor, Room 3.11


In schools, Black queer youth (BQY) are ignored or not taken seriously on account of being gender non-conforming. Their identities are considered, as one teacher said, “too complicated” to be served by clubs and activities in school. The ways BQY, and the unique social positions they occupy in their families, neighborhoods churches/mosques and schools, challenge heteropatriarchy of these institutions may lead them to drop out, or as educational anthropologist George Dei, author of Drop Out or Push Out? astutely observed, be “pushed out”, beaten or neglected.
What are the implications of educational lynching some BQY experience, embodied as hopelessness and self-loathing as a result of being pushed out of families and schools, and leading a double life in their communities of residence and downtown gay community? What roles do and should curriculum studies scholars play in the interruption of this oppression, both in theory and practice? First, curriculum studies scholars must acknowledge the importance of framing. Most Black Lives Matter groups organize peaceful, public demonstrations responding to violence faced by black communities using a critical race, queer-feminist lens that demands justice for ALL Black people, not just those who embody normative class, gender, sexuality, citizen identities.
Second, it is important for curriculum studies scholars to recognize and gain inspiration from BQY and other queer youth of color who are fighting back and transforming the social ecology of urban environments. Doing so points to ways grassroots activism and other social movements serve as curriculum for social transformation. Channeling the likes of Pauli Murray and Bayard Rustin, young people like Alicia Garza and Race Baitr blogger Hari Ziyad refuse to live compartmentalized lives. They are "making space" for all of their identities and lived experiences as non-white, gender and sexuality minorities, undocumented, poor non-Christian and/or disenfranchised. The dilemma, as Ziyad writes, is “My world is a world where I am constantly in battle with anti-Black and anti-queer violence as they intersect. I am forced to both defend Black folks who wouldn’t lift a finger to defend me by virtue of my queerness while also defending against them, even as I might perpetuate sexist and anti-trans violences. And that is the constant truth of being a Black cisgender queer man. That is always what is through any door I enter, seen or not.”
How are we, curriculum studies scholars, positioning ourselves in relation to the activist, "making space" work of Black queer youth (BQY)? Are we drawing on it to rethink the forms, meaning and mobilization of curriculum and content in and beyond schools? Curriculum as participation in families, neighborhoods, schools and grassroots activism has multiple possibilities. It can affirm all Black lives or, in worse case scenarios, engender educational lynching of BQY.