Academic journal article The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)

The Critical Pedagogy of Black Studies

Academic journal article The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)

The Critical Pedagogy of Black Studies

Article excerpt


Understanding the production and consumption of knowledge by way of the organic and/or the traditional intellectual, I examine the de(construction) of Black Studies within the work of critical pedagogy. This piece particularly focuses on undergraduate Black Studies students at urban public institutions (particularly at the City University), and their disconnect from pursuing the work of organic and traditional Black Studies pedagogy at the graduate level.

"The Climate of deceit that has been created produces misinformation and erases knowledge that might contradict such deception."

Dr. Joe L. Kincheloe (2006)

Navigating Identity

I was born and raised in Hell's Kitchen, New York City, went to public elementary, junior high and high school in New York City, and went to the City University of New York for my undergraduate degree studies. With this, my acceptance into Columbia University's graduate school of arts and sciences should not have felt any different. As I disembarked from the uptown number one train at the 116th street and Broadway stop, I noticed at that point, all the white people were also getting off. People of color would replace them, as the train went farther into Harlem and then into the Bronx. The campus was something I had only seen on television as replicas, or in real life, passing it on the way to my piano lessons in Sugar Hill. It looked the same then as it does now, with its huge mansion-like iron gates, a security booth guarding the knowledge behind it, a red brick walkway, massive stairs and students with namesake sweatshirts or sweatpants on their bodies. I felt transplanted elsewhere, another century would best describe my transplant-like feeling.

Scouring the campus for Brown and Black faces, I found a handful, but regardless of the difference and diversity in race and gender on campus, everyone shared the same language, the language of the Ivy League. I felt the competitiveness in the air even through its silence and thought this type of environment would match my workaholic attitude at best. Although I was there for graduate study, and attending school in my hometown, unlike so many others on campus, I should not have felt a culture shock. However, this was oddly different, even on the first day. Many of my college "advisors" had advised against obtaining a graduate degree in "ethnic studies." Warnings like "there are no jobs for that, post-degree, not even if it comes from Columbia University," were not far and few in between. In fact, they were often and followed by many "that's a waste of your time and brain. You will not make money in the long run by studying that." The graduate program itself was brand new, and was just being offered to applicants that September. When at luncheons or get-togethers with friends, some asked whether it was a "real program" or whether it was some "experiment" that the Ivies were trying. Working for corporate America at the time of my application and acceptance to Columbia University, my boss pulled me aside and thought he would offer some critical analysis by asking me whether I was sure this is what I wanted to do with my life. I did not think that graduate study would necessarily be "my life" but I did think it would feel like I was learning something particular and not random, as with other liberal arts program structures. After securing multiple student loans, and assistance from my parents' savings, I was fully registered, working multiple jobs and on my way to something, I had always wanted; an Ivy League experience.

As a woman of color growing up in New York City's Hell's Kitchen, I have always identified myself as biracial, American born, of British Guyanese parents. It seems like a lengthy description to give someone asking "what are you?" but it also seemed to qualm inquiries regarding hair texture and other questions that seemed to have some other type of social meaning. For example, identifying myself as a "woman of color" for many was not a suitable answer, as my fluency in Spanish, but not being Latina, left people with questions. …

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