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Becoming Activist

Critical Literacy and Youth Organizing

Series:

Elizabeth Bishop

Becoming Activist is a revolutionary study of youth human rights activism and literacy learning. The book follows five urban youth organizers from the Drop Knowledge Project in New York City. Intentionally polyvocal, the voices of the five youth are featured prominently to highlight the shifting articulation of their activist identities in relation to social and economic justice. Becoming Activist explores critical literacy pedagogy beyond the confines of formal education. While it has been historically theorized within English classrooms, much existing research points to the limitations of conducting critical literacy in schools. In search of a space where critical literacy can be more fully realized, this book positions urban youth organizing as an alternative context for powerful community-based learning. A valuable read for educators, researchers, and young organizers, Becoming Activist offers insight into conducting literacy work to promote positive youth and community development. Ultimately, the idea of «becoming» is key to understanding and supporting youth activists as they grow to exercise their political power for positive social change.
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Chapter 4. Step Two: Interrogating Complex Perspectives

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The second element in the critical literacy taxonomy involves “researching, analyzing, and interrogating multiple viewpoints” on a given issue. Multiple perspectives are key to understanding different complex positions and interpretations. This point inexorably links to the third taxonomical element explored in Chapter 6, which focuses on the identification of issues focused on sociopolitical realities. In the early stages of engaging organizing, youth may have only limited knowledge of specific issues and related social injustices. Rather, they identify issues while conducting research and seeking out multiple perspectives and continue in an iterative cycle of identifying new issues and conducting new research accordingly. All of the participants highlighted the value and importance of having safe space in which to participate and facilitate difficult dialogues.

The most prominent practices participants identified involved searching out independent, international media resources, asking questions about who owns the modes of production to control who speaks and what message is conveyed (Lankshear & McLaren, 1993). They sought out diverse perspectives ← 39 | 40 → on a host of issues. The pages that follow provide examples of some ways in which participants gathered sources, conducted research, gained perspective and reckoned with 21st-century information culture(s).

Vaga De Franx considers complex perspectives and viewpoints through her uses of media, as well as her call for peer study groups for informal learning around books and histories. Whether interrogating the underlying messages on chauvinism or feminism, there is a way in which her habits of questioning read as a powerful...

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