We have fourteen weeks of theory resting between our ears. Throughout the semester, we’ve interrogated how language, culture, and race are theorized in the field of composition and rhetoric. Importantly, our understanding of these theories has not been developed in isolation. We did not read tucked away in the library or at our desks over our lunch breaks, only to sit and ponder these ideas in isolation. Each Thursday evening, we convened in a small simple room to talk, to question, to criticize, and to understand. We engaged in rhetoric to convey ideas and relied on literacies to understand our texts and each other. Through our linguistic repertoires, we engaged in a collaborative social process to develop our ideas. We navigated meanings, and hopefully, developed an attuned orientation towards the interaction of race, culture, and the practice of language.
This is where we are, shortly after our penultimate class meeting, in the moment that I sit down to converse with you about our experience. Our professor challenged us before our discussion, “What is theory?”, and an underlying question rose to the surface, “How do we apply theory in practice?”. These questions seemed to shape the conversation during the first half of our weekly gathering.
Echoing and enforcing our ongoing semester-long dialogue, we dug into the theory and practice of translingual approaches to literacy and writing. Drawing upon the words of Bruce Horner, Min-Zhan Lu, Jacqueline Jones Royster, and John Trimbur, one classmate oriented us towards a recurring theme from not only this week’s readings, but also from across the semester. We were reminded that stances of openness towards language and literacy practice require us to view “language differences and fluidities as resources to be preserved, developed and utilized” (Horner et al., 2011, p. 304). This flexible view of language, taking a position that language is an inherently dynamic process rather than a static perfection, allows the space to ponder Horner et al.’s recognition that “we are all language learners” (p. 304). In class there was an acknowledgement that, for some, this is a profound perceptual change to the nature of language. What are the implications of this reoriented perspective, of engaging in what A. Suresh Canagarajah terms “linguistic pluralism”?
No longer is language a thing to be tamed, taught, and tested. Rather, it assumes mutable organic qualities we often associate with living beings; growing, changing, responding, and evolving. The translingual approach pushes this concept a bit further. Language cannot be wrangled into a singular truth--because core to its nature is difference. According to Min-Zhan Lu and Bruce Horner, “difference is the norm” (2013, p. 585). In class we pushed this theory towards practice by recognizing that there is not a singular way of speaking or writing. Linguistic practices are not monolithic, and we ought to keep this orientation at front of mind when we work with students. We must create environments where students can draw upon their personal linguistic repertoires not only to navigate, but also to co-create the contextual language practice in our learning spaces. An act Lu and Horner have cited as language sedimentation.
After discussing Jerry Won Lee’s Beyond Translingual Writing we intentionally moved the conversation towards the practical application of translingual approaches. How can we make these ideas work for us and our students? Linguistic agency, the ability of language users to recognize and control their own practice and experience with language, can inform the way we understand our student’s language practices. We can assess linguistic agency by incorporating reflective writing into our curricula, and in conjunction, committing to engaging in dialogue with our students regarding their language production.
Even though we engaged in a rich and rigorous discussion, I still wonder about Won Lee’s linguistic social justice, something we only briefly touched on. Or, what about the relationship between language practices and power dynamics? These might be theoretical questions for the next class to tackle.
It is imperative to note that there is no set of practices, no how-to guide, no tricks of the trade. The translingual approach, is an orientation, not a dogma. Therefore, it serves as a guide that ought to be thoughtfully and lovingly applied in our specific contexts. The embodiment of this orientation in our practice might create a space where students--each in possession of a unique linguistic finger print--can freely engage in the social nature of language, collaboratively constructing the norms of practice.
Historic Milwaukee's Annual Doors Open
Historic Milwaukee, Inc. (HMI) is a small nonprofit organization that is enthusiastically committed to increasing the general public's knowledge and awareness of Milwaukee history and architecture. HMI uses a number of events to open the doors of historically significant buildings to the public in order to teach the public about the history of Milwaukee, including it's buildings, businesses, and communities.
HMI's biggest and most popular annual event is Doors Open, "a two-day celebration of Milwaukee's art, architecture, culture, and history," that offers the public a behind-the-scenes look at buildings spread across the city and it's surrounding neighborhoods. Over 32,000 visitors flock to this free, citywide event to tour over 170 buildings over the span of a weekend. The event features sites clustered downtown, in the "spotlight neighborhoods," and throughout the entire Milwaukee area. The overarching goal expressed for Doors Open Milwaukee is to "showcase the architecture and community stories of Milwaukee's downtown and culturally diverse neighborhoods," to improve the perception of these neighborhoods, and foster pride in residents of the city's communities.
Each year, Doors Open selects 2-3 different "spotlight neighborhoods" to be highlighted during the event by featuring a substantial number of exciting sites clustered in those neighborhoods. The spotlight neighborhoods are usually culturally diverse, going through the process of revitalization, and contain unexpected treasures. Doors Open provides communities with the opportunity to to make connections and foster relationships; to advertise and promote local businesses and organizations; and to share their neighborhood pride and culture with others. Some spotlight neighborhoods from recent years include Lindsey Heights, Layton Boulevard West, Historic Mitchell Street, Oak Creek, and Bronzeville.
Spotlight Neighborhoods: Lindsay Heights
Lindsay Heightsis located in the heart of Milwaukee's North Side and was once the center point of Milwaukee's growing African American community following their migration from the south in the early 1900's. After decades of economic instability, largely due to the abandonment of the Park West Freeway plans that caused the demolition of thousands of homes in the area, Lindsay Heights has been revitalized.
Local businesses, organizations, foundations, and community members have united in a communal effort to rejuvenate the neighborhood to its former glory by "connecting Lindsay Heights to itself and the rest of Milwaukee" (Inouye). Some of the many organizations and businesses working to nourish the community include restaurants, like Jake's Deli and Tandem, outreach programs, like Innovation & Wellness Commons and Walnut Way Conservation Corp, and spaces for connecting to others, like Alice's Garden Urban Farm & Community Garden and the Fondy Farmers Market (Inouye). All of these locations are just a few examples of sites that have been open to visit and tour during Doors Open in the past, with new sites being added each year.
The access and opportunities provided by the sites and tours during Doors Open allow residents and visitors alike a peek inside other communities, to learn about their diverse cultures, values, and spaces. Doors Open serves as a space for rhetorical listening, which is"a stance of openness that a person may choose to assume in relation to any person, text, or culture; its purpose is to cultivate conscious identifications in ways that promote productive communication, especially but not solely cross-culturally" (Ratcliffe 25), where different people can learn, listen, and connect across community spaces.
Doors Open as an event promotes the development of an understanding of the context and identifications of those we interact with who are different from ourselves. Rhetorical listening is important to "promoting an understanding of self and other" (27), a comprehension lacking for many people within "normative" society and positions of power. Furthermore, the choice to engage in rhetorical listening, attempting to understand others experiences without relating them to our own, is the only way to begin to understand others perspectives, experiences, and ways of being. Ultimately, by engaging with community funds of knowledge through rhetorical listening we're able to integrate what we learn into our world-views and decision-making (29), be it consciously or un-consciously.
One of the key concepts constantly re-emerging throughout our study of Composition and Rhetoric this semester, is the idea of creating safe spaces outside of institutionalized oppression where people outside of the "normative standards" imposed by society can feel liberated to express themselves, live life on their own terms, and embrace their multifaceted identities. The concept of creating safe spaces (or similarly, "safer spaces") is championed as an essential literacy practice in Eric Darnell Pritchard's Fashioning Lives: Black Queers and the Politics of Literacy.
The term "safe space" may be generally defined (based on our readings, my own perspective, and Google's definition) as a place or environment in which a person or group of people can feel comfortable and confident that they will not be exposed to discrimination, criticism, harassment, or any other emotional or physical harm. This concept is sometimes referred to using alternative terms, or altered to fit a specific situation, in some of the readings we've done, but can always be traced back to the same fundamental basis.
Safe spaces are essential to the formation of identity and understanding one's self in the relation to society as well as achieving educational success, maintaining relationships, and effectively communicating. In a diverse and multicultural city like Milwaukee, safe spaces are found in individualized locations. One prime example of a safe space supporting its community, located in Milwaukee's Bronzeville neighborhood, is Jazale's Art Studio.
History & Development
Bronzeville is one of many once thriving Milwaukee neighborhoods that have been negatively affected by segregation and economic instability throughout the course of the city's history. However, Milwaukee's Bronzeville neighborhood has finally begun the process of revitalization and redevelopment with the support of local businesses, organizations, community members, and, perhaps most notably, artists. In an innovative effort to help redevelop the Bronzeville area, a new program called HomeWorks: Bronzeville is working to renovate properties to create living and workspaces for local artists to own (Daykin).
One of the local artists at the forefront of this effort was Vedale Hill, who is the art director at Jazale's Art Studio. Hill was looking for a new studio space to own instead of rent, and "wanted to be in a neighborhood that supports artists of color" (Daykin). This venture eventually led to the development of the city's Art and Resource Community (ARCH) program, which "provides no-interest loans for the redevelopment of tax foreclosed properties into art studios, live/work spaces and community resource centers" (Daykin) on the condition that the artists' talent benefits the community. Hill was the first artist to receive an ARCH loan, which allowed him to open Jazale's Art Studio.
Empowering the Community
For the Bronzeville community, Jazale's is far more than just an art gallery due to the after-school programs, summer art opportunities, and youth mentoring it provides urban youth in the area. This commitment to community can be seen in their mission statement, which affirms: "Jazale's Art Studio promotes arts and education in our community by providing children with instruction and exposure to a diverse range of arts, along with homework help. With encouragement and modeling, we assist children in expressing themselves creatively while developing pride in their neighborhood... and strive to promote academic excellence."
Jazale's Art Studio serves as a safe space outside of the institutional oppressions faced by the community's urban youth who are often marginalized members of society due to their race, background, and/or class status. It is a place were restorative literacies take place, "a concept that projects literacy as integral to people's everyday lives and their production, consumption, and reception of writing and other cultural productions" (Pritchard 37), which promotes identity formation, pride, and self-love.
Jazale's could also be seen as an extracurricular site, which "refers to sites of literacy learning and practice that occur out of formal settings, such as the school" (Pritchard 81), as the community's youth comes together to create art, do homework, and share experiences with those around them. Safe spaces promote success, positive identity formation, self-love, and affirmation for the disadvantaged youth suffering from social constraints outside of their power. Jazale's Art Studio serves as a fantastic example of how the safe spaces can be created specifically their community, and sets the standard for surrounding Milwaukee communities to work toward.
Jazale's is also reminiscent of MANOS, grassroots educational mentoring program featured in Brokering Tareas: Mexican Immigrant Families Translanguaging Homework Litereacies by Steven Alvarez. MANOS provides members of the Mexican community in New York City's Foraker Street neighborhood a social context outside of the pressures for assimilation in language and culture, outside of the gaze of the public school system, and outside of institutionalized oppression (Alvarez 33-34). Jazale's appears to do much of the same important work done by MANOS, as both provide their community's youth encouragement, homework help, and a space to express themselves in positive ways.
For more information about Jazale's Art Studio and its programs, check out their Facebook page.
To read the full article "Artists Helping Redevelop Milwaukee's Bronzeville Area Homes" written by Tom Daykin for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, click here.
The Milwaukee Film Festival ran from October 18th to November 1st and included an array of foreign language films alongside its impressive line-up of 2018 indie hits, such as David and Nathan Zellner’s Damsel, award winning documentaries like Bing Liu’s Minding the Gap; and locally based and produced features including Emir Cakaroz’s Riverwest Film & Video.
As a recent transplant from Southern California, I must confess that I underestimated the scope of the Milwaukee Film Festival. And, as a somewhat regular at the Hollywood Arclight and a previous attender of the San Diego Film Festival, I thought I knew long lines and high demand and did not imagine that attending a screening, with tickets in hand, would present any issues. So, I bought pre-tickets for Shoplifters, the latest offering from Japanese director Kore-eda Hirokazu since I had loved some of his previous films including After the Storm and My Little Sister.
Though I knew that Kore-eda is a successful filmmaker (Shoplifters has ranked as the fourth highest grossing Japanese film of the year), when my husband and I arrived to the Oriental theater with an hour to spare, I was shocked by the attendance. The line for the film snaked around the corner, people huddled against the exterior of the adjacent buildings as film festival volunteers politely called out reminders to have tickets ready, fostering a sense of urgency. That sense of urgency soon proved unwarranted for those of us in the second half of the line as the minutes continued to pass and the gusty winds continued to pick up. Murmurs of concern began to rustle throughout the crowd: there was a chance we would not all get in, even those of us who had tickets in hand.
Despite my strong desire to see the film – and to be in the warmth of an auditorium – I reflected on the significance of the moment. Here we were, somewhere in Midwestern America in the Fall 2018 – in this political moment that sometimes seems like it’s leading nowhere but backward, fostering xenophobia and regression – on a very cold day, and people (a lot of them) had come out to see a Japanese-language film about, of all things, class inequities and injustices. And these people were getting pretty huffy at the notion that they might not get to see it! The investment was high.
In English 812 this semester, we have talked a lot about issues related to inclusivity and multi-culturalism as means for combatting regressive and myopic thinking. And as rhetoricians who are exploring how to more equitably teach writing, we are primarily concerned about how to create multi-cultural classrooms that model value for all Englishes. And I often wonder if one of the main routes for doing that – for fostering appreciation of languages more broadly – may be more exposure to foreign languages. People sometimes express dislike for foreign language films, generally citing the reading requirements involved. I often worry that this aversion to foreign language films and other content, no matter what the reason, fits too conveniently into a monolingual culture, one in which English-only speakers can too easily avoid interacting with other languages.
But, as the beyond sold-out showing of Shoplifters demonstrates, there is an interest in and a demand for content in other languages and for stories outside of the audiences’ own experiences. This should not be news, but it bears repeating to the larger American film industry that often chooses to shy away from challenging content, and certainly, on the whole, shies away from foreign language content, wanting to avoid challenging or annoying its audience, even though doing so has often proved fruitful. Just think of the generally positive reception to Quintin Tarantino’s 2009 Inglourious Basterds, a film that has an 87% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes and earned over $120 million in the U.S. The is noteworthy because the film begins with an extended sequence in French and prominently features French, German, and English throughout along with some sly commentary on the use of different language for various settings, purposes, and audiences. This film, along with films like Shoplifters, is just another example of American audiences’ desire for foreign language content and need for more exposure to it. I think more films like these – both American films featuring foreign languages and various Englishes and foreign-made films – in major cinemas would have a profoundly positive impact on our culture.
P.S. We did eventually get into the movie theater, with about five seconds to show time, a volunteer ushering us to separate seats, two of the last admitted audience members to the dark auditorium. The screen illuminated the room, and for the next two hours and one minute, the packed room was captivated by a quiet, moving, and well-crafted story in a language almost everyone, if not all, in the room did not speak. We listened to the characters’ voices, understanding their stories, with help from the subtitles as needed.
Trailer for Shoplifters:
Stunning is how I would describe Family Pictures, a current exhibit at the Milwaukee Art Museum scheduled to run until January 20, 2019. Even though I was interested in the exhibit, which according to the website “explores the ways in which black photographers and artists have portrayed a range of familial relationships, from blood relatives to close-knit neighborhoods to queer communities,” I was dragging my feet on a cold, inhospitable day to the exhibit. Fittingly, when I entered the museum, I discovered it was Family Sunday and the museum was bustling with the energy of families making the best of a cold Wisconsin day.
Even though I knew the subject of the exhibit, in some ways I was unprepared for its impact. After descending a staircase, I was greeted by the stark title included in the image above. Then, I turned left. Lyle Ashton Harris’ photo “Mothers and Sons II” in its full-color glory depicted a black woman sitting on a throne while flanked by her two adult sons. Beside it were similar pictures displaying not only powerful familial bonds between parents and children but also the dignity of the subjects within the compositions, something often denied in the photographic images populating the internet. According to the placard accompanying his work, other images by Harris offer “an intimate look at the artist’s given and chosen families and subverts various notions of familial, sexual, and racial identities.”
Harris’ work coupled with a series of photographs by Deana Lawson chronicling men with their families at Mowhawk Correctional Facility offered a diverse, fuller perspective of black males. For me, it evoked some of Vershawn Ashanti Young’s observations in his book Not Your Average Nigga: Performing Race Literacy and Masculinity. Young laments the restrictiveness “performing race” in his text, suggesting the polarization and exhaustion of conforming to an identity that cannot fully encapsulate his full self. The photographic images suggest a fuller self, a self that is rarely seen in media images of black males depicted as criminals or threatening stereotypes. All around me were images of tenderness and love, of proud sexuality and black masculinity.
Another area of the exhibit featured the work of Carrie Mae Weems, a photographer who captured the lives of her own middle class black family in response to 1965 Assistant Secretary of Labor Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s callous assertion about black communities and families. Moynihan argued, “the deterioration of the fabric of Negro society” is a result of a weak family structure. Weems counters by presenting issues such as poverty in a broader context, revealing the lives of people affected by challenges as more than simply statistics. Her photos, like those of many other artists, reinforce the strength of familial bonds. For me, her work evoked empathy and admiration, qualities not apparent in Moynihan’s somewhat dismissive statement. Just as Steven Alvarez’s research on Mexican immigrant families revealed in Brokering Tareas: Mexican Immigrant Families Translanguaging Homework Literacies, the families of so called minoritized populations are often sources of strength instead of impediments to happiness or success.
I couldn’t help but reflect upon the culminating effect of the exhibit. I am white and the images reflected back at me are often those that resemble me, which is something I am largely immune to. Standing among so many beautiful and diverse pictures of a population other than my own, a population often distorted by others, was moving and engrossing. Then, I thought of how much more powerful this experience might be for those that do not have the benefit of seeing their reflection everywhere they look. It made me think of the little girl standing, mouth agape, in front of former first lady Michelle Obama’s portrait and of the importance of expanding the context in which we present and perceive people.
Expand your own perspective by checking out this exhibit between now and January 20, 2019.
While there, you may want to capture a family photo of your own in the exhibit’s designated space (pictured below).
Earlier this semester during one of our think tank sessions, we brainstormed our associations for the terms “classroom,” “spaces where learning happens,” and “activities for learning.” For “classrooms,” I listed physical objects: desks, windows, whiteboards, static configurations, doors that are hard to open. But for “spaces where learning happens,” my terms shifted to more of a creative, craft-based space: airy, atrium, dirty hands, messiness, music, collaboration, sharing work without judging. My responses for “activities for learning” were in the same vein: sharing, discussing, reading aloud, listening, mapping, staying lost.
As a creative writer, I often return to the strengths of creative writing pedagogy as a resource for possible solutions to the composition issues we discuss in class. For Krista Ratcliffe, the practice of rhetorical listening is comprised of four moves, the first of which is “promoting an understanding of self and other” (26). Ratcliffe cites Alice Rayner’s definition of this type of literacy as “perhaps a borderland more than a boundary between the capacity to hear and the obligation to listen to what one cannot immediately understand or comprehend. And it leads to the learning of community” (30). Creative writing programs, especially those that take place outside the evaluative structures of school, allow students the time and space to learn about themselves and gain empathy for other people, to spend time together in the borderland of hearing and understanding.
One of my colleagues, David Kruger, has recently started a new program in Milwaukee that offers students a community space to write and share their stories. The Milwaukee Queer Writing Project (MQWP) is a program that offers free creative writing workshops to LGBTQ+ youth in the Milwaukee area. I asked David some questions about MQWP’s beginnings and future.
Q: What inspired you to start MQWP?
A: I had just passed my prelims, which was a really solitary and concentrated endeavor, and I wanted to find a way to reconnect with the community around me. I more or less took it as an opportunity to reset and reorient and to embark on new projects.
I don’t know what spurred the initial thought. I queried a handful of other graduate students at the UWM English Dept., and as we began collaborating a lot of things sort of clicked. On the one hand, there are a lot of LGBTQ+-identified creative writing teachers at UWM who were interested when we started. Additionally, I know a good number of LGBTQ+ high school teachers (I bartend at a gay bar).
So, while I am not exactly sure why I thought to do it, as soon as we got a group together and began working through some of the logistics, things began progressing at a fairly steady rate. The puzzle pieces were there in front of us (so to speak), and all we had to do was sit down and begin organizing.
Q: Why do you feel it is important to connect young queer writers with more seasoned writers?
A: Someone asked me once why LGBTQ+ students and why not just students in general? And, I think answering this first might help me better answer your question. Currently, we are interested in working with Gay Straight Alliances (the pilot program we launched this fall is with Riverside High School’s GSA). So, anyone and everyone is welcome to attend. However, I wanted to create a space that is markedly queer and specifically for LGBTQ+ students because writing creatively often requires a degree of emotional vulnerability and honesty. And, in straight and cis spaces, LGBTQ+ people tend to self-censor as a survival mechanism. I think this is incredibly prevalent in the high school setting (at least it was for me and a lot of people I know). So, I didn’t want to make a creative writing program that “made room” for LGBTQ+ students. Rather, I was interested in making a creative writing program that was for LGBTQ+ students to safely express themselves in writing.
So, I think that this is a space that affords LGBTQ+ students opportunities for expression that are plausibly unavailable elsewhere. Speaking directly to your question, one of the qualities of the space MQWP creates is that it enables LGBTQ+ MPS students to interact with LGBTQ+ UWM instructors. I think this goes a long way in modeling the fact that queer kids can grow up to be happy and healthy queer adults. This serves to demystify the process of growing up for LGBTQ+ kids. When I was a kid (granted I grew up in a small town), the lack of queer role models was extremely isolating. I don’t think this is as prevalent today because of mass media’s embrace of the LGBTQ+ community, but this vision of the community is fairly normative.
Two final notes: 1) creative writing (poems/short stories/creative essays) is a really useful tool for discussions of identity. We do bring in examples by published authors, but primarily we are focused on getting the students to generate work. And, affirming student’s work through positive feedback is one way we affirm the validity of that student’s identity, which might be particularly critical if that sort of affirmation isn’t happening elsewhere. And 2) hopefully this program gets high school students thinking about college and gets them excited about the kind of spaces and teachers they might encounter there.
Q: What is your goal for MQWP in the future/ where would you like to see the program a few years down the road?
A: We launched our pilot program with Riverside High School this fall, which we are using as an opportunity to fine-tune some of the logistical and operational facets of MQWP. We are very interested in expanding this organization both in terms of the number of institutions but also the kind of institutions we partner with. We are primarily interested in building more bridges between additional area high schools and UWM (and are currently in contact with a few). Partnerships with other kinds of organizations are also hopefully in our future. Currently, MQWP is formed in partnership with the UWM English deptartment and Woodland Pattern Book Center in Riverwest. Our collaboration with Woodland Pattern has been immensely helpful in terms of their support and getting us off the ground (shout out specifically to Alexa, their education coordinator for her invaluable support). We have contacted a few local organizations (such as the Courage House of Milwaukee and the UWM LGBT+ Studies program) who have expressed interest in working with us, and we are excited about the possibility of these collaborations in the future.
Q: What else would you like to share about the program?
A: If you are reading this and want to know more or if you work at a local high school and are interested in a partnership, please reach out! Our email address is email@example.com
David Kruger is a PhD candidate at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee English department. He teaches English literature, creative writing, and LGBT+ studies. He is also a poetry editor for cream city review.
Spaces, safety, and love are recurrent themes in our readings for #uwm812 (Shaughnessy, Pritchard, Delpit, Paris & Alim). Discussed mainly within the context of classrooms pedagogies we learn that we as educators must make sure students feel safe in our classrooms. Eric Pritchard, for example, in his book Fashioning Lives: Black Queers and the Politics of Literacy highlights his personal experience regarding how he felt displaced in school, and turned to other spaces, like the local library, to engage with restorative literacy practices for reading and learning. Drawing from bell hooks’ work, Pritchard talks about the importance of “love ethics” in which love is the center piece of anything and everything in our daily lives. As much as it is crucial to create safe spaces in the classrooms, we also should contribute to create similar spaces outside the four walls of classroom—ideally in the community we live in. United Way of Greater Milwaukee and Waukesha County is a non-profit that seem to be doing exactly this. They promote equity and inclusion as a part of their commitment to improve everyday lives of local communities through health, education financial stabilities. They also sponsor various community-focused programs. By participating effectively and actively through these programs, United Way makes difference in individual lives.
United Way shares success stories of their endeavors on their website. One such stories highlighted in their official website caught my attention as I was browsing it. United Way funded the Match Me Program at Ozaukee where Nathaniel, a 9-years old fatherless child met Dwight, a volunteer at United Way. Dwight helped him with his homework and also taught him how to drive a car. He also helped him with job application process and practice interviews for possible positions. Dwight’s dedication to volunteering has inspired Nathaniel as he is grown up now. This individual example of mentorship connects with some threads of “indigenous relational pedagogy” that Paris and Alim’s Culturally Sustaining Pedagogies underlines. Amanda Holmes in the book, for example highlights the significance and value the Elders carry in indigenous cultures. She remembers Rosalie Little Thunder, an Elder who deeply influenced her (Amanda) by her (Rosalie’s) lifestyle. Amanda was highly appreciative of Rosalie, “…her “practices” and manner, the protocols, values, and disciplines she spoke about—and was so keen to document, and that she lived.” Dwight was definitely a “role model” for Nathaniel, in his own words, his “superhero”. While defining Elders, Holmes does mention that they (the Elders) also “… act as role models, often assuming leadership positions in their communities.” (page#). Seen through the lens of indigenous relational pedagogies Homles underlines Dwight had tremendous influence on Nathaniel, acted as a “role-model” and helped him grow as a person—thus with Nathaniel’s “sustenance”.
Through a range of other programs they organize/fund and stories that United Way highlights in their website, I came to learn that they do provide a space for people in the community and thus build a united community where people feel safe and flourish according to their potentials. They also have plenty of volunteering opportunities. Under their “Seasons of Caring” program, United Way always recruits individuals who wants to touch lives and make a difference by engaging actively with the local communities. Learning about community-engaged activities United Way does makes me hopeful about future—creating safe spaces, spreading love
among people both inside and outside classrooms, we might one day see the change we desire—a better life-experience for people in the community—one that is built upon collective and communal efforts!
English for Academic Purposes (EAP, henceforth) at UW-Milwaukee offers ranges of courses for these students for whom English is not the first/only language/dialect. EAP students come from different language and cultural backgrounds and gather as one community with one purpose—to get better at English. However, #uwm812 exposes us to readings that challenges our long-held beliefs regarding this community, especially with regards to student errors/mistakes. Especially thinking about the early readings, for example Mina Shaughnessy’s Errors & Expectations raised intriguing questions student errors produced by Basic Writers (BW). Also, Lisa Delpit’s Other People’s Children also highlights the debate surrounding standard vs non-standard English that gets to the very definition of what should be considered standard English. Both Shaughnessy and Delpit discuss student community who has multilingual and multidialectal language background—something Vershawn Ashanti Young and Suresh Canagarajah also underline in their works.
EAP students’ mistakes can be open for interpretation, or better yet, up for debate depending on who is looking at it or from what angle. EAP teachers from a pure linguistic point of view may see a rather non-standard language form as a mistake while a first-year writing instructor may see it from a rather rhetorical vantage point. Just thinking about the word “mistake” itself, the question is who is missing the take (pun intended) on the apparent student error? Suresh Canagarajah’s piece “The Place of World Englishes in Composition: Pluralization Continued” that we read gives a good example for this complex issue. Canagarajah examines the Chinese student’s “peculiar” use of “can able to” in the same sentence as that makes sense in the student’s first language. However, judging solely from prescriptive grammatical rules of standard English, “can able to” is an error of redundancy since “can” and “be able to” has interchangeable meaning in English.
Now this can be ruled out just as a discreet and individual example. However, my personal experience teaching EAP students at UWM resonates with Canagarajah’s example. During my tenure at UWM EAP, one of my Saudi students pronounced the word “people” as “beoble”. Another student with Arabic language background would pronounce the word usually (with P sound) but write “beoble” when he would write it on paper. Now because of my familiarity with Arabic language, I know Arabic does not really have “p” sound in it. So, these apparent mistakes were rather transfer from their first/other language. Therefore, this community of students who are dynamic in their linguistic repertoire, may produce language forms that is apparently erroneous, but actually stem from their meta-linguistic abilities. Students with more than one language may make apparent mistake that is open for such interpretation. When EAP students make these apparent mistakes, there may be more than just grammatical errors that is happening there.
I am using the word “apparent” here because on face value they may seem like a mistake however, upon deeper reflection, and also possible active negotiation with students these mistakes may come out as another form of language. I am echoing Canagarajah here, “To meet these objectives, rather than focusing on correctness, we should perceive "error" as the learner's active negotiation and exploration of choices and possibilities.” (593). However, does this mean a student never make mistakes or every mistake is some sort of meta-linguistic activity? I do not have a definitive answer to this question. It is complicated to say the least, and students do make mistakes.
So, how do we approach this student community in terms of assessing them? One way to go about it, is to talk with the student in person to find out what he/she was thinking while s/he was languaging. Also, important is more coordination between teacher communities too since teachers from different background may look at these mistakes differently. For example, looking from a language instructional perspective, mistakes may seem just like mistakes. However, teachers of rhetoric may look at these mistakes from a rhetorical standpoint. I am not saying one is better/more important than the other, on the contrary one (language instruction/teaching) can complement the other (rhetoric). Therefore, as much as we need to think about student communities, we should also think about teacher communities too. Teaching and learning both are communal.
I attended a presentation entitled The vMLK Project: Crafting a Necessary (Digital) Space to Explore Rhetorical Leadership and Civic Transformation. The vMLK project is an immersive, ambient recreation, including sound and visual renderings, of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 1960 speech, “Fill Up the Jails” of which there are no known recordings (UWM, 2018) using virtual reality (VR) technology. Drawing from Minor Re/Visions: Asian American Literacy as a Rhetoric of Citizenship by Morris Young, I use this post to make connections between Re/Visions and the vMLK project. “Re/vision (a term familiar to writing teachers) is a key process in the connections between literacy, race, and citizenship, where we work with existing material, negotiating ideas and arguments, but also work to re/vision what these ideas and arguments can be, what they can teach us and others” (p.8). With the opportunity to talk to Morris Young in class via Skype, the author discussed his work & his book published in 2004. From the class discussion, the question was raised, how we might apply the narratives to today’s climate and how is it evolving?
The existing materials in this case are the resources of photos, videos, documentaries and people who lived through the civil rights era to re/create the historical event. To move the project beyond the existing materials to virtual reality, different disciplines were drawn on to produce the reenactment of the MLK, Jr. speech by an actor (from theater world) to try and capture the “voice” of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The physical environment of the church where the speech took place was demolished. Architects & designers relied on photos of the church to recreated in a virtual reality environment; and the sound engineers who worked to re/create the sound effects of the public address system based on both the speech reenactment and the physical aspects of the church. The project tries to provide an experience the audience member can feel as an embodiment of the event as if one was there.
Young states regarding narratives, “When we read stories, we attempt, whether consciously or unconsciously, to make a connection between stories and our lives"(p. 26). Although the MLK, Jr. speech, “Fill Up the Jails” happened over 50 years ago, we still are captivated by the stories of the people who were engaged in the civil rights struggle. To read their stories not only to see ourselves, but to understand history and what they had to go through to fight for citizenship, their identity, and their rights. It is the narratives about the struggle, knowledge, ideas, arguments and the language/writings during the civil rights area which help to shape the public discourse and the laws we have today.
The principal researcher of the project, Dr. Victoria J Gallagher of North Carolina University, specializes in rhetorical criticism of visual and material culture. Her explanation in the difference in approaches between King and the Reverend Douglas Moore (i.e., their ideas) to engaging social justice was interesting. Within the context of the civil rights movement, Dr. King believed in the traditional rhetorical approach – the art of persuasion, of to not only to inspire people to engage but to inform the masses of their rights during the political climate at this time. Dr. Moore believed in a direct-action oriented approach, a type of tactic in organizing a group (i.e., a strike or protest). Thus, the June 23, 1957, non-violent protest at the Royal Ice Cream Company.
Dr. Gallagher explained MLK, Jr. was of course a very influential leader but also, ordinary people showed courage and engaged in social justice. By examining rhetoric and civic transformation of past events through digital humanities, their contribution (narratives) helps to educate and empower all with knowledge or literacy significant to American citizenship.
You can read more about vMLK Project at https://vmlk.chass.ncsu.edu/.
This week’s readings were Rebecca Lorimer Leonard’s “Multilingual Writing as Rhetorical Attunement” and A. Suresh Canagarajah’s “The Place of World Englishes in Composition: Pluralization Continued .” Both authors work with ESL / TEOFL and multilingual teaching & writing. Below are some highlights from both the articles and the class discussion.
The class discussion centered on fostering strategies and values to teaching multilingual writing and speaking. The general concerns were basically how to serve students to the best of their ability, and how teachers may want to consider different approaches and what do teachers value when it comes to language learning and composition in the classroom.
Pluralism and Space
Canagarajah supports a “pluralizing composition” (p.587) or the co-existence of approaches between multilingualism and monolingual standards. He explains, “they compel us to think of English as a plural language that embodies many norms and standards” (p.589). Primarily, what new strategies or approaches can teachers provide which students can use in their writing and speaking now (‘pedagogy of space’ as he puts it) rather than over a period of time as proposed by Elbow’s two-pronged approach (p.598)?
Key Highlights from the Class Discussion
Rhetorical Attunement & Sensibility
Lorimer Leonard explains “how writing across languages and locations in the world fosters as rhetorical attunement: a literate understanding that assumes multiplicity and invites the negotiation of meaning across difference” (p.228). She also states, literate repertoires are not static (p.228), and language learning is interactive, engaging and it entails language negotiation. She further explains, “one way to think about this difference —monolingual writers hear a note; multilingual writers hear a chord” (p.244).
Other Highlights from the Class Discussion
A side note: Although I was a little intimidated in taking this class and since I do not come from an English composition and teaching background, I wanted to give a shout out to the instructor and the classmates for the sharing of their thoughts, and experiences on Rhetoric and Composition.
Best wishes to all of you in both your teaching and academic careers.