Capoeira, Black Males, and Social Justice

A Gym Class Transformed

by Vernon C. Lindsay (Author)
©2019 Textbook XVI, 158 Pages


Are you interested in working with African-American male students to help them succeed beyond the classroom? If so, this book is for you!
Capoeira is a martial art created by enslaved Africans in Brazil, and it combines self-defense tactics with dance movements, percussion instruments, freedom songs, sacred rituals, acrobatic maneuvers, and communal philosophies. Through this highly-anticipated follow-up book to Critical Race and Education for Black Males: When Pretty Boys Become Men, Vernon C. Lindsay illustrates how Capoeira can serve as a resource to encourage positive self-awareness, leadership, and social justice activism among African-American males. This book represents thirteen years of Dr. Lindsay’s experiences in Capoeira and illustrates how a physical education class evolved into an after-school program aligned with a culturally responsive curriculum.
Through research collected at a Chicago elementary school, Capoeira, Black Males, and Social Justice: A Gym Class Transformed shows how teachers can use culturally responsive curricular methods to engage African-American male students in meaningful lessons, conversations, and actions. This book is a must-read for teachers and administrators in urban school settings. It demonstrates the potential impact of schools in an era where race, gender, sexuality, economic status, and age continue to influence opportunities. Courses with the following themes will benefit from this book: critical race theory in education; African Americans and schooling; introduction to urban education; race, sports, and extracurricular programs; critical pedagogy; gender, difference, and curriculum; teaching and learning in the multicultural, multilingual classroom.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • Advance Praise for Capoeira, Black Males, and Social Justice
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Preface—My Capoeira Story
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • Brazil and United States’ Tragedies
  • Capoeira’s Competing Definitions and Vague Origins
  • Marcus Chavez Elementary
  • Why Black Boys
  • An Overview of the Text
  • Capoeira Beginnings and Black Boy Endings
  • Chapter 1. Ginga, Black Males, and Education
  • White Supremacy
  • Black Males and Education
  • Black Males in K–12 Schools
  • Theoretical Insights and Practical Visions for Black Males
  • Conclusion: Back to Ginga
  • Chapter 2. Documenting Black Males to Understand Pedagogy and Potential
  • Critical Race, Auto-ethnographic, and Action Research Methods
  • Making Contact
  • Teaching Capoeira and Engaging Dialogue
  • Observations
  • Qualitative Interviews
  • Teaching Artifacts
  • Handling Confidentiality
  • Epistemological Conclusions
  • Chapter 3. From Gym Class to the Community
  • An Open House Opened Minds
  • Capoeira as Physical Education Class
  • Learning by Failing
  • Kindergarten Students Do Not Sit Still
  • Creating Roda Real Talk
  • Homework and Student Drawings as Evidence
  • Batizados, Leadership Changes, and Company Beginnings
  • Concluding Thoughts
  • Chapter 4. When Black Males Speak
  • Monday Capoeira Classes
  • Meeting The Fellas
  • Roda Real Talk Continues
  • Ginga
  • Music and Play
  • Tuesday’s Focus Group Interviews
  • Wednesday Capoeira Classes
  • Thursday’s Academic and Social Observations
  • Chapter 5. Resistance, School Culture, and Capoeira
  • Introduction
  • Marching for Justice
  • Administrative Perspectives and School Culture
  • A Teacher’s Application
  • Capoeira and Beyond
  • Chapter 6. Relevance Without Compromise
  • School Experiences, Research Influences, and Admitted Biases
  • What about the Girls and Other Improvement Suggestions
  • Implications for Policies and Beyond
  • Final Perspectives
  • Appendix
  • A1. Focus Group Interview Questions
  • A2. Student Individual Interview Questions
  • A3. Teacher/Administration Interview Questions
  • A4. Capoeira Written Test
  • A5. Capoeira Lesson Plan
  • A6. Student’s Capoeira In-class Test
  • A7. Capoeira Gym Class Assignment
  • A8. Capoeira Instrument Test
  • A9. Capoeira Parent Letter
  • A10. Student Homework Sample Response
  • Index
  • Series index

| ix →


The 45th President of The United States is the embodiment of the systemic problems that prevent America, “from being great again.” In his first two years of office, we have witnessed foreign debates via twitter, government shutdowns, and actions aligned with the support of Neo-Nazi hate groups. This text is not about Trump or his administration, but it does reflect the efforts of a school that aimed to equip their students with the tools necessary to resist White supremacy (racism) during the end of Obama’s terms in office and the election of the current president. Through a culturally responsive curriculum and the African Brazilian martial art called Capoeira, this book explores how students were encouraged to develop positive self-awareness and discover the courage to influence changes in their communities. It is my belief, supported by the observation of the racist, xenophobic, misogynistic platform that propelled the new Commander in Chief to office, that this is the time to use culturally responsive curricula and creative tools such as Capoeira to encourage social movements led by our youth with the intention to achieve justice for all oppressed people. I intend to give voice to the experiences of Black males in an elementary school and discuss how they, other young people, and adults can work together to influence social justice. ← ix | x →

My connection to the African Brazilian martial art of Capoeira that combines music, dance, acrobatics, ritual, and self-defense began when I was a child. During my humble beginnings on the Southside of Chicago in the Chatham community, I enjoyed breakdancing and fighting. I remember attempts to showcase my limited breakdancing skills for my sisters and their friends on a carpeted floor in my childhood home. As the only boy with five sisters, I also remember the joy of spending time with other boys my age and play fighting until someone got hurt or upset. I wasn’t formally exposed to Capoeira as a child, but its basic elements of dance and fighting were essential to my upbringing.

As discussed in my first book, Critical Race and Education for Black Males: When Pretty Boys Become Men, I grew up in a home with limited resources for extracurricular activities. My father worked as a minister and provided the sole income for my five siblings and me. We took advantage of government resources to pay for groceries. My sisters and I wore clothes from the thrift store. I didn’t grow up poor, but as a family with six children living on one income, we had just enough to cover our major expenses. When I was a child, I liked to fight, but martial arts classes were not an option. Although my environment and peers changed when my family moved from the city to the south suburbs, my parents’ fixed budget determined other priorities for my siblings and me.

As a PK (preacher’s kid) I spent more time than I desired at church. Every Wednesday and Sunday, I was required to attend the church my father pastored in the Roseland community on Chicago’s Southside. It was our obligation as PKs to often also spend Saturday mornings at the church to participate in additional religious activities. When we vacationed, we didn’t go to theme parks. We went to church conventions so my father could fulfill his leadership responsibilities. I often detested the formality of church and found ways to resist which included fighting with other boys my age in the bathrooms or other places where I could avoid the eyes of adults.

Many years after the Sunday morning brawls ceased, I was introduced to Capoeira in a community not too far from my childhood home. As a recent graduate from the University of Illinois at Chicago who majored in African-American studies and earned a Liberal Arts and Sciences degree, I worked for a non-profit organization when I received a flyer that advertised Capoeira classes. The classes were offered at the 95th and State street fieldhouse in Abbot Park. Because of the class’ proximity to where I worked and lived, I decided it was a good idea to stop one evening on the way home. ← x | xi →

It was then in the fall of 2006, that my journey as a Capoeirista (a person who trains Capoeira) began. I went to the Abbot Park fieldhouse after work where I found a student of Mestra (Master Teacher) Marisa named Tinta Forte teaching a group of about ten Capoeiristas. They trained a series of movements that sparked memories of breakdancing on the carpeted floor in my parents’ home and play fighting with my friends. I was baited by the strength and finesse required to perform Capoeira’s physical movements and later hooked by the stories of how enslaved Africans used it to fight for freedom.

In the pages that follow, I offer insight into thirteen years of my experiences in Capoeira as a student, teacher, and entrepreneur on a mission to improve the lives of young people from underserved communities. This book focuses on young Black males during the 2015–2016 academic year, where I was responsible for an after-school program located at an independent private school in Chicago, identified in the text as Marcus Chavez Elementary. I discuss how multiple theories informed pedagogical and research approaches with Capoeira, combined with the school’s efforts to support the development of students’ critical consciousness and influence racial injustices proved valuable to make an impact in the lives of Black boys. This work also illustrates how the Capoeira program evolved from a gym class to a limited liability company working with multiple individuals and institutions.

A collective effort is required to achieve freedom in the twenty-first century. It will take teachers, students, administrators, activists, politicians, and others aligned with creating a more equitable society to make the necessary changes in the United States. We will need to use our talents, gifts, skills, muscles, and creativity to make the dream of a more equal society a reality. Through the words, sentences, and paragraphs of this book, my overarching goal is to provide you with useful tools to engage in important actions with young people that can increase opportunities for justice, success, and fulfillment.

Vernon C. Lindsay, PhD
Coolidge, Antigua and Barbuda, WI
January 26, 2019

For Capoeira instructional videos, merchandise, and other resources visit: www.vlindsayphd.com/capoeira

| xiii →


As with everything that requires self-discipline, creativity, and consistency I must begin these acknowledgments by recognizing The Creator who instilled in me the ability to achieve this goal. Similar to my first book, this work pushed me beyond my misconceived physical and mental limitations. I am grateful for every experience that placed this product in your hand.

Gabriella, Vizuri, Emery, and Mkazo thank you for putting up with my early morning writing sessions, berimbau jam sessions, batizado travels, kitchen kicks, living room flips, and everything else that has been part of my experiences in Capoeira. I love you and thank you for your support.

Thank you, Mestre Acordeon, for endorsing this book and challenging my ideas throughout the writing process. I appreciate you and the United Capoeira Association’s community of schools created with the visions of Mestre Rã, and Mestra Suelly. You welcomed me at a time that I did not have a home in Capoeira, and I remain humbled by your teachings and guidance to become the Capoeirista I am today.

I also want to thank Mestre Calango for moving to Chicago, teaching me, and helping form UCA Chicago. Your assistance in the formative years of an phenomenal group of children and adult students was incredible, and it is important that I acknowledge your valuable contributions to the content of this book. ← xiii | xiv →


XVI, 158
ISBN (Softcover)
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2019 (June)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2019. XVI, 158 pp., 2 b/w ill.

Biographical notes

Vernon C. Lindsay (Author)

Vernon C. Lindsay, PhD, is a graduate of the Policy Studies in Urban Education program from the University of Illinois at Chicago. He is an Assistant Professor in the Education Department at the American University of Antigua. Dr. Lindsay is the author of Critical Race and Education for Black Males: When Pretty Boys Become Men.


Title: Capoeira, Black Males, and Social Justice
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176 pages