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Becoming Activist

Critical Literacy and Youth Organizing


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 9. Imagining Tactically Strategic Futures

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This chapter discusses implications from this study for future research designs. I briefly address nine levels of audience for this work, organized from micro to macro. I start with the reader, writer, and participants, and move to speak directly to audiences in the worlds of literacy and educational research. I then turn to speak to youth organizers, adult community activists, nonprofit managers, and policy makers invested in the sustainability and scalability of this work. All audiences are vital to continued justice-oriented activism.

To address ongoing considerations of and concerns for ethics, politics, and methodological rigor, I start with implications directly related to the participants. Gentle Meadows, Awesome Woman, Green Strawberries, Vaga De Franx, and People’s Republic of Mars made this study possible. I maintain that our initial designs for research were ripe with transformative potential. While it was beyond the scope of this study to deeply engage with certain postfoundational hybridized research methods, the central importance of participant voice, input, and experience remains intact. The divergent histories, stories, and insights of the participants reflect a deep commitment to ← 95 | 96 → continued collaborative activist work around human rights and social justice with youth.

All of the participants were suggested to me as committed, vivacious, and visionary youth activists. They all entered the study with histories of activism, and each anticipated future uses of this study in their own work. As they move into full participation as adult actors in nonprofit management, human rights organizing, youth development, educational...

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