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The Rhizome of Blackness

A Critical Ethnography of Hip-Hop Culture, Language, Identity, and the Politics of Becoming


Ibrahim Awad and Awad Ibrahim

The Rhizome of Blackness is a critical ethnographic documentation of the process of how continental African youth are becoming Black in North America. They enter a «social imaginary» where they find themselves already falling under the umbrella of Blackness. For young Africans, Hip-Hop culture, language, and identity emerge as significant sites of identification; desire; and cultural, linguistic, and identity investment. No longer is «plain Canadian English» a site of investment, but instead, Black English as a second language (BESL) and «Hip-Hop all da way baby!» (as one student put it). The result of this dialectic space between language learning and identity investment is a complex, multilayered, and «rhizomatic third space,» where Canada meets and rubs shoulders with Africa in downtown Toronto, Vancouver, or Montreal in such a way that it produces its own «ticklish subject» and pedagogy of imaginary and integrative anti-racism.
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Appendix II: Profiles of Students Interviewed for This Book


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Profiles of Students Interviewed for This Book

Aaliyah: Sixteen-year-old, grade 10 female student at Sunnyside. She was born in Canada to parents from Kenya. She was an exceptionally articulate and socially active student, and participated in many extracurricular activities, especially tutoring and offering help to ESL students. She ran an afterschool program at her church for young Kenyan students. She was planning to study English and philosophy at the University of Ottawa.

Amani: Seventeen-year-old, grade 12 female student at MV, from Somalia. She is Aziza’s sister, and had two brothers who were also at Marie-Victorin. Aziza and Amani come from a well-to-do, almost bourgeois family in Somalia. She has ten brothers and sisters and was living with her single mother. In 1996 she had a sister who was attending Université Laval and a brother who was attending York University. Amani was one of the most active students at the school and was awarded la médaille de l’élève le plus actif (the medal of the most active student). She participated in sports (volleyball, basketball, soccer) and social activities (Black History Month, fashion show, and student council) and was the school singer.

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