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Black Feminism in Education

Black Women Speak Back, Up, and Out

by Venus Evans-Winters (Volume editor) Bettina L. Love (Volume editor)
Textbook X, 215 Pages

Table Of Content

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the editors
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • Section I. Black Feminism and Intellectual Spiritual Pursuits
  • Chapter One: A Praisesong for Johnnie
  • Chapter Two: Navigating Inhibited Spaces: Black Female Scholars’ Re-articulation of Knowledge Production in the Academy
  • Chapter Three: “Out of the Mouths of Babes”: Using Cynthia Dillard’s Endarkened Feminist Epistemology to Reveal Unseen Gendered Passageways
  • Chapter Four: Rising Harriett Tubmans: Exploring Intersectionality and African American Women Professors
  • Chapter Five: Eating from the Tree of Life: An Endarkened Feminist Revelation
  • Chapter Six: Colorist Dimensions of Black Feminist Knowledge
  • Chapter Seven: (Her)story: The Evolution of a Dual Identity as an Emerging Black Female and Scholar
  • Chapter Eight: Having Our Say in Higher Education: African American Women’s Stories of “Doing Science” Through Spiritual Capital
  • Chapter Nine: Truly Professin’ Hip-Hop—The Rewind (1996): Makin’ Black Girls Embodied Musical Play the Teacher
  • Section II. Black Feminism in Educational Research
  • Chapter Ten: If You Listen, You Will Hear: Race, Place, Gender, and the Trauma of Witnessing Through Listening in Research Contexts
  • Chapter Eleven: Black Feminism in Qualitative Education Research: A Mosaic for Interpreting Race, Class, and Gender in Education
  • Chapter Twelve: Me, Myself, and I: Exploring African American Girlhood Through an Endarkened (Photographic) Lens
  • Chapter Thirteen: Embodying Dillard’s Endarkened Feminist Epistemology
  • Section III. Responsibility for Who and What as a Black Feminist Educator?
  • Chapter Fourteen: Black Girl Interrupted: A Reflection on the Challenges, Contradictions, and Possibilities in Transitioning from the Community to the Academy
  • Chapter Fifteen: “Oh, You’ll Be Back”: Bridging Identities of Race, Gender, Educator, and Community Partner in Academic Research
  • Chapter Sixteen: Lessons Learned Through Double-Dutch: Black Feminism and Intersectionality in Educational Research
  • Chapter Seventeen: Responsibility, Spirituality, and Transformation in the (For-Profit) Academy: An Endarkened Feminist Autoethnography
  • Chapter Eighteen: Why We Matter: An Interview with Dr. Cynthia Dillard (Nana Mansa II of Mpeasem, Ghana, West Africa)
  • Contributors
  • Series index

 

← viii | xi →Acknowledgments

Every book project is a team effort with many individuals providing support and guidance. I would like to express extreme gratitude to my coeditor and sister-friend, Bettina “Bet” Love, for jumping on board with this project with no hesitation, for helping keep me organized, and for adding that extra creative touch to the book. Also, I would like to give much thanks to Cynthia Dillard for hearing, understanding, accepting, and tweaking the vision that Bettina and I had for the book. Undoubtedly, Dr. Dillard, your guidance made this volume a better book than we could have imagined. Thanks for pushing us to think more critically and expressively about what is possible in performing a Black womanist identity in the academy. Also, I wish to acknowledge the unwavering support of the Peter Lang team. Thanks for supporting scholars living at the margins. For my behind-the-scenes support, I would like to thank the entire Winters clan: Steve, Stephen, and Serena. Working on a book project means deadlines, and deadlines mean a distracted spouse and mother. Yet, you all always support this women’s work that I do on behalf of the family, community, and nation. Thank you all for always having my back and displaying much needed patience. Lastly, I thank all of the coauthors who have made this book idea a reality. Our spirits are inscribed onto these pages and together we represent our mothers and foremothers well, giving voice to the past, present, and future of endarkened knowledge and activism. —Venus

First and foremost, I would like to thank the creator. Her love is undeniable and abundant. I am humbled that the authors of this book trusted Venus and ← ix | x →me with their impressive work that embodies the love and spirit of Black girls and women everywhere. Thank you for your trust and for holding the work to a standard that would make our ancestors smile. A special shout to my sis, Venus, an amazing scholar who never stops working and fighting for social justice. Thank you for the invitation to join you on this journey. Dr. Dillard (Nana Mansa II of Mpeasem, Ghana): Your love and light are beyond words. You inspire us to reach back and remember our greatest achievements and how we must “do the work” in the present. Thank you for being the light at the end of the sometimes long, dark, and frightening tunnel called life in the academy. I am beyond grateful for your mentorship and love for me and my family. To my family, Chelsey, Chance, and Lauryn, thank you. The ways in which you look at me with love, admiration, and devotion inspire me to be more than I ever could imagine. Love you all!

Peace. —Bettina

 

← x | 1 →Introduction

The authors of this book share with the academic community the ways in which we have learned to embrace, resist, adapt, and reconceptualize education research, teaching, and learning in ways to better serve our personal growth, individuals, our cultural communities, nation, and all of humanity. Although books are available on how Black women navigate the academy, what makes this book unique is that contributing authors intentionally and creatively reflect on how they use endarkened feminist epistemological frameworks, a term coined by Cynthia Dillard (Nana Mansa II of Mpeasem, Ghana, West Africa) to construct stories on educational transformation as raced, gendered, and cultural embodied work.

In her book On Spiritual Strivings: Transforming an African American Woman’s Academic Life, Dillard (2006) explains,

I use the term “endarkened” feminist epistemology to articulate how reality is known when based in the historical roots of Black feminist thought, embodying a distinguishable difference in cultural standpoint, located in the intersection/overlap of the culturally constructed socializations of race, gender, and other identities, and the historical and contemporary contexts of oppressions and resistance for African American women. (p. 3)

While Black feminism and writings have long traditions, Dillard’s theoretical and methodological writings are some of the first works in the field of education that successfully interweaved Black feminists’ politics, spirituality, and Africanism with traditional education research, curriculum, and practice. ← 1 | 2 →Historically, women of African ancestry, such as Gwendolyn Brooks, Septima P. Clark, Anna Julius Cooper, Fanny Lou Hamer, Elizabeth Higginbotham, and Mary Church Terrell, among many others (see Giddings, 1996; Guy-Sheftall, 1995; Phillips, 2006, for an extensive overview and collections of Black feminist thought), have extensively written or publicly spoken about the significance of Black women’s experiences in developing meaningful educational philosophies and practices that are culturally (and politically) relevant to those of the African Diaspora. The message conveyed by African women scholar-activists across the world was that Black women as laborers and nurturers, of our own children and other people’s children, have an ontological way of being, viewing, and conveying the social world that could simultaneously contribute to social theory and serve democratic purposes.

Many Black women in the field of education find themselves at once culturally isolated and politically embattled as scholars. Thus, besides developing a critical consciousness out of our historical experiences of marginalization (and the forms of resistance that Black women have drawn upon to adapt and survive) as Black and woman and poor/working class, those of us located within the academy also have developed an endarkened feminist epistemology often out of our solitary confinement in the white ivory tower.

Similar to other Black womanist scholars, the editors’ intellectual pursuits and articulations here have been certainly shaped by the philosophies of Black feminists Patricia Hill-Collins, Angela Davis, bell hooks, Clenora Hudson-Weems, Audre Lorde, and Alice Walker. The aforementioned Black feminists remind us that women of African ancestry’s multiple identities create a multiple consciousness (King, 1988) that is informed by resistance against racism, sexism, and class inequality. In relationship to this book, what Hudson-Weems’s (Africana Womanist Literary Theory), hooks’s (Ain’t I a Woman), Walker’s (In Search of My Mother’s Garden), Davis’s (Women, Race, and Class), Lorde’s (Sister Outsider), and Collins’s (Black Feminist Thought) theoretical cogitations provided for us theoretically, methodologically, pedagogically, and spiritually nearly a decade ago, is what Cynthia Dillard’s endarkened feminist epistemology is doing for the next generation of Black women, emerging and budding scholars in the field of education—it provides a more global perspective on Black women’s ways of knowing.

As Evans-Winters discussed in Teaching Black Girls (2011), Black women of our generation never experienced de jure segregation, the civil rights movement, or Baptist church teachings, which are the experiences that many Black feminists declared informed their identities as feminist scholars. While many younger Black women scholars have been reared and influenced by other women’s and community members’ stories of Jim Crow segregation, the women’s and civil rights movements, and the religious practices of the Black church, we are ultimately a part of a generation that has mostly experienced de facto segregation in urban ← 2 | 3 →communities and suburban integration. Another difference between Black women scholars matriculating through the academy more recently and those Black feminists who came before us? We are accessing the formal marketplace in the midst of internationalization and a neoliberal post–civil rights academic climate. Therefore, we tend to be curious about an identity that extends beyond U.S. borders, an identity that is possibly accorded more acceptance and freedom. In this book, many of the authors speak to locating their identities as scholars in communities of affinity (Dillard, 2006) for spiritual preservation.

Nevertheless, different from many of our Black feminist predecessors, we have benefited from Brown v. Board of Education, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX, ethnic studies and gender studies programs in higher education, and multicultural curriculum. Also, Black women scholars today live in a historical moment where most Americans remain skeptical of organized religion and have disengaged from formal institutions of worship, yet, Black women are also a part of an ethnic group that is the most religious in this country. Demographic patterns, cultural shifts, and political mandates indubitably shape present-day Black women scholars’ worldviews.

Along these same lines, Love (2012) emphasizes in Hip Hop’s Li’l Sistas Speak that Black girls’ and young women’s identities have been shaped by more than simply history. Today’s generation of African ascended women are shaped by contemporary images of Black women that are constructed by popular media, including rap music and hip-hop culture. For the editors of the volume and the authors of this book, popular culture has shaped our racial and gender identities as scholars, activists, and critical pedagogues. Contradictorily, pop culture has been a site of both cultural affinity and, simultaneously, a site of resistance. Readers will certainly be able to identify within this text where the authors accept and reject the complexities of popular culture, and how an endarkened feminist perspective helps all of us to disentangle the web of culture (Geertz, 1973). The messages conveyed in the book’s chapters are undoubtedly shaped as much by a historically constituted racialized gender paradigm as they are by a creative imagination often characterized by the rhythm and blues that accompanies Black girlhood in the post–civil rights world.

As readers will discover in the chapters presented in Black Feminism in Education, many Black women scholars exist in a liminal space between the traditional and the modern. Many Black women scholars in this volume are synchronously questioning the intentions of White feminism and patriarchy, while also embracing a multicultural/multiethnic, multi-vocular, and multigenerational Black feminist epistemology that crosses multiple (cultural, political, and geographical) borders. In other words, contemporary Black women scholars are even pushing traditional Black feminism forward by adding their own experiences and perspectives to the dialogue.

← 3 | 4 →As Dillard articulates in Learning to (Re)member the Things We’ve Learned to Forget: Endarkened Feminisms, Spirituality, and the Sacred Nature of Research and Teaching (2012),

What is needed are models of inquiry that truly honor the complexities of memories. Of indigenous and “modern” time, experienced not just in our minds, but in our bodies and spirits as well. Frameworks that approach teaching and research as sacred practices, worthy of reverence. (p. 10)

The scholars in this book merge past lived experiences with their learned knowledge to bring forth a more complex reality of what it means to be a scholar in a White supremacist patriarchal imperialist society (for example, see hooks, 2013, for an explanation of using more veracious language to name racism). Propitiously, Dillard’s notion of endarkened feminism brings forth a framing or language that may be more conducive and representative of how many 21st-century Black women engage theory, research, and practice. Below is a concise outline of the conceptualization of endarkened feminist epistemology (Dillard, 2000, 2006, 2012) and its major themes that have noticeably emerged across chapters presented within this book.

1.Endarkened women scholars’ ideas, conceptualizations of the social world, and aesthetics are grounded in a historical and/or global Black feminist thought.

2.A Black feminist epistemology culturally and ontologically differs from traditional White feminist thought.

3.A Black feminist epistemology is located in Black women’s existence at the intersections of race, class, and gender oppression in a society that privileges whiteness, maleness, and wealth.

4.An endarkened feminist epistemology challenges, and at times necessarily rejects, Eurocentric Western canons and research methodologies.

5.An endarkened feminist epistemology is purposefully activist and community-engaged.

6.Spirituality is an underlying theme of a Black woman’s scholarly identity and is connected to the types of research and relationships one seeks out in (and outside) academe.

7.An endarkened feminist worldview is connected to a transnational identity that exceeds borders and connects histories, cultures, and ways of being in the social world.

Our standpoint is simultaneously located in seeking to better identify, understand, and name Black girls’ and women’s vulnerabilities, resilience, and forms of resistance across the African Diaspora. Many women of African ancestry also seek to ← 4 | 5 →challenge traditional Eurocentric positivist ways of knowing and inscription of the social world; we seek to turn to alternative indigenous knowledges to read the self, community, and spiritual world. Thus, Black feminist theorists tend to draw upon alternative research methodologies, and pedagogies that are possibly transformative and healing for all involved in the research, teaching, and service experience.

Summary

In Black Feminism in Education: Black Women Speak Back, Up, and Out, authors use an endarkened feminist lens to share the ways in which they have learned to resist, adapt, and re-conceptualize education research, teaching, and learning in ways that serve the individual, community, nation, and all of humanity. Chapters explore and discuss the following question: How is Black feminist thought and/or an endarkened feminist epistemology (EFE) being used in pre-K through higher education contexts and scholarship to marshal new research methodologies, frameworks, and pedagogies? At the intersection of race, class, and gender, the book draws upon alternative research methodologies and pedagogies that are possibly transformative and healing for all involved in the research, teaching, and service experience. The volume is useful for those interested in women and gender studies, research methods, and cultural studies.

Biographical notes

Venus Evans-Winters (Volume editor) Bettina L. Love (Volume editor)

Venus E. Evans-Winters is Associate Professor of Education in the Department of Educational Administration and Foundations at Illinois State University. She holds a Doctorate in educational policy studies and a Masters degree in school social work from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her research interests are school resilience, urban education, critical race theory, critical pedagogy, and feminism(s). Bettina L. Love is an award-winning author and Associate Professor of Educational Theory & Practice at the University of Georgia. She is the author of Hip Hop’s Li’l Sistas Speak: Negotiating Hip Hop Identities and Politics in the New South. Her work has appeared in numerous books and journals, including the English Journal, Urban Education, The Urban Review, and Journal of LGBT Youth.

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