Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Black Student Leaders Practicing Resistance in the Midst of Chaos: Applying Transgenerational Activist Knowledge to Navigate a Predominantly White Institution

Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Black Student Leaders Practicing Resistance in the Midst of Chaos: Applying Transgenerational Activist Knowledge to Navigate a Predominantly White Institution

Article excerpt

The resurgence of a modern day Civil Rights Era can be directly traced to the formation of a Black Lives Matter social movement, which was founded by Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi, in response to the murder of Trayvon Martin in 2012 (Garza, 2014). This social movement serves as an organizational platform for activists to protest institutional anti-Blackness practices and the systemic dehumanization of Black adults, while simultaneously providing a digital outlet for youth to share experiential narratives about combating racism (Dohrn & Ayers, 2016; Schuschke & Tynes, 2016). Concerning Black student leaders, Black Lives Matter has provided a source of transgenerational connectivity that is used to challenge blatant racism on social media, predominantly White campuses and within the public sphere (Joshi et al., 2017; White, 2016). As an example of a larger social movement, Black Lives Matter is reminiscent of organizations like the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), which was created at Shaw University in 1960 by Black student leaders to help African American citizens gain equal rights. Similarly, SNCC and Black Lives Matter built extensive transgenerational communal networks to respond to the cyclical erasure of Black people whether living in segregated neighborhoods or on hostile predominantly White institution (PWI) campuses.

How African American students experience being Black while attending PWIs has been researched during the past 50 years. Black students face threatening campus racial climates at PWIs where White institutional presence (Gusa, 2010) impedes academic, social and cultural progress (Fleming, 1984; Gusa, 2010; Hurtado, Alvarado & Guillermo-Wann, 2015). Specifically, Gusa (2010) conceptualizes White institutional presence as having four aspects: (a) White ascendancy, (b) monoculturalism, (c) White estrangement, and (d) White blindness-all of which are detrimental to the educational experience of Black students. These impediments represent both a form of blatant racism (Smith, Allen & Danley, 2007; Smith, Hung & Franklin, 2011; Smith, Yosso & Solórzano, 2007; Solórzano, Ceja & Yosso, 2000) and nuanced racial microaggressions (Gomez et al., 2011; Harris et al., 2015; Nadal et al., 2014; Robinson-Wood et al., 2015; Sue, 2010) that can traumatically culminate in gendernoir racial battle fatigue (Hotchkins, 2017) if not avoided.

To illustrate, Black students often navigate racist PWI environments by being engaged in social change movements, joining historically Black organizations, participating in leadership roles with students of color, practicing cyberactivism and through involvement in community giveback (Arminio et al., 2000; Dancy & Hotchkins, 2015; Gin et al., 2017; Hotchkins & Dancy, 2017; Kimbrough & Hutcheson, 1998; Sandoval-Almazan & Gil-Garcia, 2014; Sutton & Kimbrough, 2001). The impetus for becoming Black student leaders at PWIs is influenced by African American parents who racially socialize their children about participating in activism, the need to flourish while in college and giving back to Black communities through organizational involvement (Herndon & Hirt, 2004; Peters, 1985; Stevenson, 1994). Furthermore, racial socialization narratives provide home pedagogy (Delgado Bernal, 2001) perspectives about how elders and ancestors thrived despite being descendants of enslaved Africans who maintained cultural and academic excellence even in a modern era where Black people are constantly under siege (Hartman, 2007; Womack, 2017). In fact, the aforementioned studies indicated cultural expectations are transmitted through transgenerational knowledge from Black parents to children for the purpose of assuring an understanding about the value of racial connectedness, resistance, and community.

This research uses a qualitative comparative case study to explore how Black student leaders apply transgenerational knowledge, as a result of racial socialization, to participate in social change movements while attending a PWI. …

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