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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 10. Step Five: Reflecting and Envisioning Activisms

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The fifth and final element in the critical literacy taxonomy involves reflecting upon actions taken and creating vision(s) for future project(s). While all of the participants approached activism and organizing in unique ways, they shared the context of an investment in the protection and defense of human rights. Whether they physically rallied students and workers or digitally created art and organized information for dissemination online, all of the participants engaged in social justice actions and forms of human rights activism. Further, all of the youth participants talked about their future activist work by first reflecting on the past. This is striking as a clear example of praxis (Freire, 1970; Lankshear & McLaren, 1993), reflecting on action taken to envision the next steps towards social change.

As we turned to talk about the future, Vaga De Franx reflected on her past and the lessons she learned as an organizer and an activist with Occupy Wall Street:

She noted the continued restlessness despite the lack of a location for the movement, pointing to the need for a space where organizing for economic and social justice can continue. Her current work with information activism involves and includes the creation and dissemination of a magazine dedicated to free university access:

This reflection on the divide between physical and digital information came up multiple times over the course of the study. It relates in many ways to ideas of information sharing and connectivity, as we attempt to...

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