Critical Literacy and Youth Organizing
Chapter 5. Organizing a Space for Justice
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Recent youth organizing work is expanding the idea of young people engaging in activism. Activism here is understood as one key component to cultural, political, and social movements (Reed, 1981), in relation to which individuals further develop their sociopolitical identities (Watts & Guessous, 2006). By undertaking social activist projects, social justice-oriented youth organizers reframe ideas about civic engagement to consider how power informs civic and community life. In the process, they foster their abilities to understand, question, and challenge the subtle relationships among their identities, cultures, and politics (Ginwright, 2010b).
In what follows, the context of youth organizing is introduced as a community-based space from within which critical literacy learning takes place. This involves many challenges: first, to define the terms of youth organizing and activism through a poststructuralist approach to question and defer signification; second, to delineate something of a nonnarrative, nonexhaustive history of past and present activist organizing projects; and third, to trace the reach and limitations of youth organizing projects to establish the need for the present study.
Youth organizing is a relatively new field of research, a hybrid space that is activist in content and that actively resists cooptation. Obviously, youth engaging in community organizing and social activism have a long history well before either concept was even considered a “field” for study. Broadly speaking, the contemporary study of youth organizing is an extension of positive youth development, situated in the crux among traditional youth development, youth leadership, and community organizing.
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