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  • Many young people of color in urban contexts are forced to negotiate difficult living conditions. Their ability to transform their socioeconomic conditions might be dependent on their ability to analyze and challenge social structures and to actively engage in the reconstruction of those structures. This paper will discuss how marginalized communities’ development of counter-stories (Solórzano & Yosso, 2001, 2002) plays a central role in their efforts towards social change. These counter-stories provide alternative perspectives on community members’ lives that challenge mainstream master narratives about their experiences

Rosario Cis2009 Presentation Transcript

  • 1. Literacy for the community: Counter-storytelling and social change Enid M. Rosario Ramos School of Education and Social Policy, Northwestern University Community as Intellectual Space : June, 2009 This research is funded by the Adolescent Literacy Fellowship from the National Academy of Education.
  • 2. Literacy and social change
    • “ To surmount the situation of oppression, people must first critically recognize its causes, so that through transforming action they can create a new situation, one which makes possible the pursuit of a fuller humanity” (Freire, 1970, p. 47).
  • 3. Counter-storytelling as transformative action
    • critical literacy and transformative action merge, as the production of texts becomes an act of resistance where master narratives are contested and new narratives are produced (Morrell, 2007; Comber, Thomson &Wells, 2001)
    • counter-storytelling represents a way of deconstructing, challenging, and shattering master narratives (Solórzano & Yosso, 2001, 2002; Delgado Bernal, 2002; Parker & Lynn, 2002; Garcia, 2005)
  • 4. Guiding questions
    • If we look at how minoritized communities create counter-stories to challenge the traditional representations of their experiences…
      • What purpose does literacy serve in the reconstruction of marginalized histories?
      • How can youths insert themselves in a process of liberation where literacy takes center stage as people evaluate, critique and rewrite mainstream discourse?
  • 5. Research site
    • Puerto Rico High is a Puerto Rican Alternative High School in a large Midwestern city.
    • It was founded as part of a grassroots movement within the Puerto Rican community in the city.
    • It is part of the Boricua Cultural Center, the umbrella organization that organizes the efforts of other social services organizations in the neighborhood.
    • The community organizations are sites in which young people play central roles and take on real responsibilities for their learning and the learning of others, and the communities’ well being (Heath and McLaughlin, 1994).
  • 6. Data collection
    • Participant observations
    • Analysis of pictures and material objects
    • Interviews with students and administration
    • Collection of community texts
  • 7. The school as a counter-story
    • Puerto Rico High is a counter-storytelling institution that redefines the experiences of the community it serves and represents.
      • School Name
      • Material Objects
    • As many members identify with the Independence movement in Puerto Rico, many of their counter-stories revolve around the political relationship between the US and Puerto Rico.
  • 8. The school as a counter-story
    • “… it is an entire people who, not only don’t know where they come from, who they are and where they’re going, but it’s a part of a system that denies people who they are, where they come from and, therefore, where they’re going . It’s something that clearly doesn’t benefit those people, but benefits those who need to have a population that have no idea who they are so that way they can buy into a structure that benefits other people. That is part of this Americanization. People say it’s selling out but what do people have to sell out if they don’t know who they are, where they come from and where they’re going? It’s keeping a person’s soul empty in order for the body to do whatever it is that you want it to do.” (Interview, 4/7/09)
  • 9. The school as a counter-story
    • “… it is an entire people who, not only don’t know where they come from, who they are and where they’re going, but it’s a part of a system that denies people who they are, where they come from and, therefore, where they’re going. It’s something that clearly doesn’t benefit those people, but benefits those who need to have a population that have no idea who they are so that way they can buy into a structure that benefits other people . That is part of this Americanization. People say it’s selling out but what do people have to sell out if they don’t know who they are, where they come from and where they’re going? It’s keeping a person’s soul empty in order for the body to do whatever it is that you want it to do.” (Interview, 4/7/09)
  • 10. The school as a counter-story
    • “… it is an entire people who, not only don’t know where they come from, who they are and where they’re going, but it’s a part of a system that denies people who they are, where they come from and, therefore, where they’re going. It’s something that clearly doesn’t benefit those people, but benefits those who need to have a population that have no idea who they are so that way they can buy into a structure that benefits other people. That is part of this Americanization. People say it’s selling out but what do people have to sell out if they don’t know who they are, where they come from and where they’re going? It’s keeping a person’s soul empty in order for the body to do whatever it is that you want it to do. ” (Interview, 4/7/09)
  • 11. The school as a counter-story
    • Non-mainstream communities have historically been denied a place in history, as their identities, values, and social practices are erased or misinterpret by those with social power.
    • Communities have the right and the responsibility to identify the social problems that affect their members, and to determine the best solutions to them based on their own experiences, values and beliefs.
    • The construction and re-construction of their own stories through texts serves as a way to reinsert themselves in history while deconstructing and challenging inequality and injustice.
  • 12. The school as a counter-story
    • School’s name as a counter-story
    • “ It’s like one piece of a puzzle to reconstruct an identity. It’s one piece of a puzzle to establish a historical memory . If a student goes to [name of nationalist] High School, guess what’s on their diploma, the name [name of nationalist]. If only just for that, when they leave and they go on with their life, maybe nothing in the school particularly day to day hits them, but there’s gonna come a time in their life where they gonna say ‘man, I went to a school named [name of nationalist]?’ and they realize all the attempts that have been made while this man was alive and while this man has been dead to completely tear apart who he was, in an essence to tear apart who Puerto Ricans are; to label it as just a terrorist, to label him as somebody who was destructive, somebody who was angry, somebody who was a fanatic, all these terms, all these things to demonize somebody like [name of school], we’re flipping it on its head and saying, this person was significant enough in Puerto Rican history to not only acknowledge who he was but to name a school after him.” (Interview, 4/7/09)
  • 13. The school as a counter-story
    • School’s name as a counter-story
    • “ It’s like one piece of a puzzle to reconstruct an identity. It’s one piece of a puzzle to establish a historical memory. If a student goes to [name of nationalist] High School, guess what’s on their diploma, the name [name of nationalist]. If only just for that, when they leave and they go on with their life, maybe nothing in the school particularly day to day hits them, but there’s gonna come a time in their life where they gonna say ‘man, I went to a school named [name of nationalist]?’ and they realize all the attempts that have been made while this man was alive and while this man has been dead to completely tear apart who he was, in an essence to tear apart who Puerto Ricans are ; to label it as just a terrorist, to label him as somebody who was destructive, somebody who was angry, somebody who was a fanatic, all these terms, all these things to demonize somebody like [name of school], we’re flipping it on its head and saying, this person was significant enough in Puerto Rican history to not only acknowledge who he was but to name a school after him.” (Interview, 4/7/09)
  • 14. The school as a counter-story
    • School’s name as a counter-story
    • “ It’s like one piece of a puzzle to reconstruct an identity. It’s one piece of a puzzle to establish a historical memory. If a student goes to [name of nationalist] High School, guess what’s on their diploma, the name [name of nationalist]. If only just for that, when they leave and they go on with their life, maybe nothing in the school particularly day to day hits them, but there’s gonna come a time in their life where they gonna say ‘man, I went to a school named [name of nationalist]?’ and they realize all the attempts that have been made while this man was alive and while this man has been dead to completely tear apart who he was, in an essence to tear apart who Puerto Ricans are; to label it as just a terrorist, to label him as somebody who was destructive, somebody who was angry, somebody who was a fanatic, all these terms, all these things to demonize somebody like [name of school], we’re flipping it on its head and saying, this person was significant enough in Puerto Rican history to not only acknowledge who he was but to name a school after him. ” (Interview, 4/7/09)
  • 15. The school as a counter-story
    • School’s name as a counter-story
    • There is a recognition of master narratives that demonize Puerto Rican people in general and the nationalist movement in particular.
    • These master narratives continue to perpetuate the unequal political relationship between the US and Puerto Rico, which is seen as reflected in the discrimination and marginalization of the Puerto Rican people living in the US.
    • The reinterpretation of the life of this man is an attempt to also rewrite Puerto Rican history, so that the students can reinsert themselves in history and get a new sense of who they are and where they come from.
  • 16. The school as a counter-story
    • Material objects
      • The school space tells a counter-story through the display of objects.
      • The objects challenge master narratives about Puerto Rican history and its people.
      • A discourse of political oppression and colonialism takes center stage as school members attempt to rewrite their history to denounce abuse and emphasize the active resistance of the Puerto Rican people.
  • 17. The school as a counter-story
  • 18. Jordan’s counter-storytelling
    • Senior student
    • Active member of the community
    • Part of the youth collective of a youth organization
    • Well-respected poet in the community and prolific writer
  • 19. Jordan’s counter-storytelling
    • Literacy and the critical analysis of social issues
    • “ umm I like to read about.. um I actually got really interested in equal rights for Hispanics, minorities and stuff like that so I’m really interested in that lately…ummm beforehand I read a lot about the struggle on the street , some gang related books, stuff like that.. people that struggle, basically.” (Interview, 1/7/09)
  • 20. Jordan’s counter-storytelling
    • Literacy and the critical analysis of social issues
    • “ umm I like to read about.. um I actually got really interested in equal rights for Hispanics, minorities and stuff like that so I’m really interested in that lately…ummm beforehand I read a lot about the struggle on the street, some gang related books, stuff like that.. people that struggle, basically.” (Interview, 1/7/09)
    • “ love, hate, struggle, same things I like reading about actually…mmm and I’ve started actually writing a lot about our political prisoners, about [the neighborhood], and my ethnic, my Puerto Ricanness ” (Interview, 1/7/09)
  • 21. Jordan’s counter-storytelling
    • Writing as transformative action- the collective
    • Our struggle (excerpt)
      • Can I reminisce when my ancestors went through this struggle
      • Being put away cause they were seen as nothing but trouble.
      • I can only imagine what they felt inside
      • Being beat down not being able to stand up for their pride
      • Due to them being Latino or Latina they weren’t given equal rights.
      • So we had people like Dr. (name of nationalist) put up a fight
      • With so much soul and pride he did it for us.
      • Almost like Rosa Parks didn’t want to sit in the back of the bus.
  • 22. Jordan’s counter-storytelling
    • Writing as transformative action- the collective
    • Our struggle (excerpt)
      • 16 political prisoners were sitting behind bars
      • Because they didn’t want the United States tearing us apart
      • Segregated, gentrified we still don’t have a solution
      • Our prisoners are sitting in there in a state of mind of mental execution.
      • With the [unbearable] thought if [that they might never] get out
      • To help the rest of the Latinos get out of this drought
      • Cause isn’t what this is a deserted island
      • Looking for our prisoners but we can’t find them.
      • We are the people in thirst and the desert is the Gringos
      • But we find water cause we are Tainos
      • Strong, intelligent just like everybody else
      • Just a different complexion and some without wealth
  • 23. Discussion
    • Social transformation requires that people recognize and understand how social structures and dynamics create injustice.
    • The recognition and understanding of injustice should be accompanied by a reconstruction of these relationships.
    • Counter-storytelling plays an essential role in social justice as it re-humanizes people by reinserting them in history on their own terms.
  • 24. Discussion
    • Students learn to read the world and the word by analyzing how social systems influence their own experiences and those of their families and communities.
    • They also work with others to rewrite the world by creating counter-narratives of themselves and the community and by participating in other community efforts towards social transformation.
  • 25.
    • ¡Gracias!
    • [email_address]
  • 26. Jordan’s counter-story- the personal
    • Writing as transformative action- the personal
    • My life (excerpt)
      • My life you see I was 13 in the game.
      • My life drove my mom insane.
      • My life is filled with racial and judgmental comments.
      • My life makes me want to vomit.
      • Violence, Hatred, Corruption, I been through it all.
      • But yet I still find a way to stand tall.
  • 27. Jordan’s counter-story- the personal
    • Writing as transformative action- the personal
    • My life (excerpt)
      • Mami Mami no puedo por que me dejas.
      • Es por las drogas que me sueltas.
      • I’m sorry mommy, but you a unfit mother.
      • That exactly why I went to go live with my brother.
      • I thank god my life is better than yours.
      • Cause my friend are my medicine and my future is my cure.
      • You see my life is headed in the right direction,
      • it didn’t take me to lose my daughter to learn my lesson.