IUME Culture Circle — African American Literacies Recap ☆

| February 26, 2012

“I am…articulate.” That simple sentence may seem, well, indeed quite simple but in reality, those three routine words were immensely powerful this afternoon at the Gordon Campus in Harlem. Graduate students Crystal Belle and Jamila Lyiscott dissected African-American literacies today at our second IUME Culture Circle among a great–and very diverse–crowd of participants from the community. After everybody introduced themselves, Crystal and Jamila immediately broke out into spoken word poetry, surprising us, but then moving us with their poignant words and powerful delivery. (You can watch their “performance” HERE at our YouTube channel.)

Yet, the lessons embedded inside their poems were deep and critical; the cultural dialects of black students are continually discounted for reasons that defy the historical logic of America–dialects of America are distinctly part of the American experience. However, more importantly, it is common sense to see how mastering different dialects is a skill unique, useful, empowering, and positive cultural capital. Of course, the purpose of this afternoon was not to explain these obvious–albeit still-sorely misunderstood traits–qualities of black students, but to think critically about how and why society sees colonial English as superior, breaking down the construction of language and infusing that dialogue with the intersections of education and learning. How does African American literacy operate within a white, oppressive framework? What are the factors that contribute to this? How does this affect ones own understanding of language, culture, and communication–both as a person of color and as a white individual? And most importantly, how do we collectively take action?

It was another wonderful IUME Culture Circle with intense dialogue, beautiful camaraderie, and inspring leadership–thank you for all who attended! These events and afternoons are constant steps toward the action and change that bubble up out of each of us, progressively creating a coalition that radically re-thinks society, life, learning, and love. Thank you all again for those who continue to create this special space with us at IUME and for those of you who could not attend today, we look forward to seeing you very, very soon.

And don’t forget to check out our YouTube channel and the Photo Gallery to see video and pictures from this afternoon!