Kinloch, V., Burkhard, T., & Penn, C. (2017). When school is not enough: Understanding the lives and literacies of black youth. Research in the Teaching of English, 52(1), 34.
This article discusses findings from two interconnected ethnographic studies on the out-of-school literacy practices of Black adolescent males: 18-year-old Khaleeq from the US Northeast, and 18-year-old Rendell from the US Midwest. The data analyzed derive from their engagements in nonschool, community-based, social justice initiatives that, we argue, represent rejections of deficit narratives about who they are (their racialized and gendered identities) and what they allegedly cannot do (their literacy capacities and capabilities). Utilizing a critical literacy approach that attends to out-of-school contexts, race, and counternarratives allows us to demonstrate how they questioned narratives of failure that unfairly place blame on Black youth and not on the structural inequalities endemic to US society. These narratives include (among others): the widening gap in achievement and high school graduation rates between Black and White male students in the United States; the school-to-prison pipeline and increasing drop-out and push-out rates that impact high school-aged Black males; and the overrepresentation of Black males in special education classes. Khaleeq and Rendell used literacies to question these racialized narratives and their consequences, and to produce counternarratives to negative assumptions about Black adolescents. As a result, we focus on how they cultivated their literacies, nurtured their spirits, and charted their own trajectories within community spaces when school was not enough. This analysis offers implications for how literacy practitioners and researchers can narrow the school-community divide by lovingly attending to the out-of-school literacies of Black adolescents.
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