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Seeking Resistance and Rupture in "the Wake": Ripples of Hope in the Futures of Black Boys

Tue, April 17, 8:15 to 10:15am, New York Hilton Midtown, Concourse Level, Concourse A Room

Abstract

In this chapter, I draw from qualitative research on the ways Black adolescent boys conceive of their futures in the face of various structural challenges. I highlight the ways that Black boys, caught up in “the wake” (Sharpe, 2016) of poverty, violence and unthought-of, futures work to imagine, plan to enact and then make their lives beyond their present realms. Given Afro-pessimism’s call to the invisibility and exclusion at best, and destruction at worst of Blackness historically, presently and even in futurities, what hope for Black boys exists as they strategize given whatever materials are available and necessary to conceive of and strategize for a future? How do Black boys simultaneously live in the wake and resist it, and through resistance, rupture its unrelenting force by imagining futures and making lives for themselves on their own terms? In response to these questions, I highlight findings from a nearly yearlong study with Black boys in one college-preparatory high school in an urban context as they weighed present-day challenges with future aspirations. For this chapter, I employ an Afro-pessimistic lens to probe the story of Samuel, a Black 17-year-old boy from that study, as he made sense of his future along the lines of college preparation, his career interests, and his other future and anticipated life outcomes. As will be revealed, Samuel’s dissonance about his future reflects elements of the looming social death for Black boys Afro-pessimism describes, while his simultaneous persistence reflects hope, ruptures or even ripples existing in the wake.

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