Urban Literacies

Authored by: Valerie Kinloch

The Routledge Handbook of Literacy Studies

Print publication date:  May  2015
Online publication date:  May  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415816243
eBook ISBN: 9781315717647
Adobe ISBN: 9781317510611


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On any given day, I would walk into Harlem High School (HHS) 1 and see passages from well-known African American and [email protected] activists plastered on bulletin boards and posted on classroom walls. Popular quotes from Amiri Baraka, César Estrada Chávez, Pat Mora, and Assata Shakur, for instance, provided me with a sense of hope and power, knowing and belonging, learning and liberation. As quickly as I would acknowledge the quotes and their deeply profound messages, I would also see, feel, and hear movement all around me. From students running down school hallways and up stairwells, students standing in corners laughing or arguing with friends, teachers instructing students to “move faster” and “get to class,” to teachers scheduling group planning sessions during the weekends, the movements were not only real, but powerful. These movements allowed me to be present within the space of HHS as well as to observe, see, hear, and participate in learning with people who are oftentimes and unfairly marked disengaging and disruptive urban students or unprepared and uncaring urban teachers. There was something about the movement within this school that contrasted with the aforementioned descriptions of urban students and teachers. Unlike images of urban schools, communities, students, and teachers we receive from popular films such as Dangerous Minds and Freedom Writers, HHS was real. The students and teachers in this school were real. Their movements in the classrooms, hallways, and in the spaces surrounding the school were real.

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