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Things are Heating Up

General Question: How’s everyone’s thesis process going?  😊

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The more I dive into my deep reading, the more excited I become about my thesis and the whole process of studying a topic that has become close to my heart, almost like a child. (Mind you, I have no children, but I do have a lot of nieces and nephews.) I am very protective of this topic of AAVE (African American Vernacular English); but beyond that, I am curious about it. I want to know it’s “favorite color” or “what makes it itch,” I want to know every single detail and as much as possible. Studying and taking notes more this past week made me realize that I forgot I was in a class for this and eventually will receive a grade for this. I am working hard to produce something pretty awesome for my own pleasure and ambitions. With that being said, let’s dive in!

So last week I was relieved to know that I am on the right track! (Phew). The reading list that I had in my previous blog was a good start to building a Literature Review. Obviously, between working full time and going to school full time, I can’t read 20 pieces of literature in seven days. So for now, I started with four new readings and one continuation.

  1. Bell Hooks: Black Looks, Race and Representation: This book had so many interesting points when it came to talking about black people and the way their representation effects not only their lives but how it’s metaphorically embedded in their DNA when it comes to their clothes or music. However, that representation is considered cool or current, but when it comes down to history or what a black person deals with daily, it’s considered everything under the sun except being cool. Within the first chapter, I saw a lot of great points that she made that could be used in my thesis (possibly), but I don’t see this being a book that is the main part of it. Here are the points that could be used for my thesis:
  • “We have to change our own mind…we’ve got to change our own minds about each other. We have to see each other with new eyes. We have to come together with warmth…” -Malcolm X (Hooks, pg 16)
  • Every aware black person who has been the “only” in an all-white setting knows that in such a position we are often called upon to lend an ear to racist narratives, to laugh at corny race jokes, to undergo various forms of racist harassment. (pg 16)
  • And that self-segregation seems to be particularly intense among those black college students who were often raised in material privilege in predominately white settings where they were socialized to believe racism did not exist, that we were all “just human beings,” and then suddenly leave home and enter institutions and experience racist attacks. (pg 16)
  • While it has become “cool” for white folks to hang out with black people and express pleasure in black culture, most white people do not feel that this pleasure should be linked to unlearning racism…(pg 17)
  • As long as black folks are taught that the only way we can gain any degree of economic self-sufficiency or be materially privileged is by first rejecting blackness, our history, and culture, then there will always be a crisis in black identity. (pg 18)
  • Internalized racism will continue to erode collective struggle for self-determination. (pg 18)

2. Paulo Freire: Pedagogy of the Oppressed: Freire is a brilliant scholar and based off of this book I truly admire what he writes about. However, like Hooks, I feel as if this is not what my thesis is going to be surrounded by. He spoke about oppressors and oppressed and how these groups work in the world of class, power, race, and identity. I can see this being apart of my thesis literature review, but for a Doctorate Degree. His points and topic would broaden my specific topic of AAVE too much instead of helping focus on one thing. These points I found interesting:

  • The “fear of freedom” which afflicts the oppressed, a fear which may equally well lead them to desire the role of the oppressor or bind them to the role of oppressed, should be examined. (pg 46)
  • The oppressed, having internalized the image of the oppressor and adopted his guidelines, are fearful of freedom. (pg 47)
  • Freedom would require them to eject this image and replace it with autonomy and responsibility, (pg 47)
  • Freedom is acquired by conquest, not by gift. It must be pursued constantly and responsibly. Freedom is not an ideal located outside of man, nor is it an idea which becomes a myth. It is rather the indispensable condition for the quest for human completion. (pg 47)
  • However, the oppressed, who have adapted to the structure of domination in which they are immersed, and have become resigned to it, are inhibited from waging the struggle for freedom so long as they feel incapable for running the risks it requires. Moreover, their struggle for freedom threatens not only the oppressor but also their own oppressed comrades who are fearful of still greater repression. (pg 47).
  • The oppressors do not perceive their monopoly on having more as a privilege which dehumanizes others and themselves. They can not see that, in the egoistic pursuit of having as a possessing class, they suffocate in their own possessions and no longer are; they merely have. For them, having more is an inalienable right, a right they acquired through their own “effort” with their “courage to take risks.” If others do not have more, it is because they are incompetent and lazy, and worst of all is their unjustifiable ingratitude towards the “generous gestures” of the dominant class. Precisely because they are “ungrateful” and “envious” the oppressed are regarded as potential enemies who must be watched. (pg 59)

3. Lisa Delpit: Other People’s Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom: This book has so many points and pieces of information that I have a separate Google Doc just for Delpit. (Click Here to see it). There were specific quotes that I would like to mention here because they made me think about my “Burning Question” and I feel like I am getting closer to finding out what it is.

  • The children in Trackton, in short, read to learn things, for real purposes. When these children arrived in school they faced another reality, They were required, instead, to “learn to read,” that is, they were told to focus on the process of reading with little apparent real purposes in mind other than to get through a basal page or complete a worksheet – and much of this they were to accomplish in isolation, Needless to say, they were not successful at the decontextualized, individualized school reading tasks. (pg 63)
  • Those who have acquired additional codes because their local language differs significantly from the language of the national culture may actually be in a better position to gain access to the global culture than “mainstream” Americans who, as Martha says, “only know one way to talk.” Rather than think of these diverse students as problems, we can view them instead as resources who can help all of us learn what it feels like to move between cultures and language varieties, and thus perhaps better learn how to become citizens of the global community. (pg 69)
  • Rather than teach decontextualized operations, she would typically first pose a “real-life” problem and challenge the students to find a solution. (pg 65)
  • To give some background information, Delpit gave examples and quoted other scholars and teachers; they were making the point that black students learn in a different way than white students would. There needs to be a purpose for learning and using it for real-life situations. Black students do not have a disadvantage because they speak AAVE, but rather it is the concept of learning differently. Here is the example I thought of:
  • My favorite TV is A Different World (About students at an HBCU (Historically Black College)). One of the characters, Lena James, comes from a rough neighborhood in Baltimore but comes to college to receive an education. She is having trouble with calculus until her professor, Dwayne Wayne, is able to relate calculus to something she is passionate about or something she could relate to. It is present that she speaks AAVE but is certainly not dumb or “less than” because of it. All the professor had to do was relate it to the student, and she succeeded. (The part I’m talking about stops at 31 seconds of the video. Also, I apologize for the bad quality!)

 

So far, I have two main points for my thesis. The first one comes from the quote I made in my previous blog about people or specifically students who can speak in more than one way, as an advantage. The stigma that African Americans speak “improper” is considered “less than” but in reality, they know how to speak in two ways (or more), which would be AAVE and “Standard English.” The second one is that AAVE is not acceptable in an academic setting but what about if the language could be accepted in the classroom, would there be a change in grades, behavior, and confidence in the students? Delpit and her fellow scholars say yes.

3. Felicia R. Lee: Lingering Conflict in the Schools: Black Dialect vs. Standard Speech: This article was amazing and on point with its context! Lee spoke about dialect and the importance of it. It seems as if dialect as far as it referring to one’s identity has been not only swept under the rug but totally disregarded and viewed as negative. Lee was able to show both sides of the argument when it came down to “who is responsible for black students not knowing how to speak properly?” but also, “who is responsible for stripping away their dialect in general?” What I also liked about this reading was that I was able to make connections to other readings and materials that I am studying. Here are the points that I could use for my thesis:

  • The black vernacular has steadily diverged from standard English and becomes more widespread in poor, urban neighborhoods.
  • The persistence of the dialect reflects, in part, the growing resistance of some black young people to assimilate and their efforts to use language as part of a value system that prizes cultural distinction. It also stems from the increasing isolation of black inner-city residents from both whites and middle-class blacks and stems as well from a deep cynicism (an inclination to believe that people are motivated purely by self-interest; skepticism) about the payoffs of conforming.
  • An absence of clear policy: Teachers are largely left to devise their own methods.
  • In some neighborhoods, young people acknowledge an element of resistance, and even a stigma, to using standard English or “talking proper”.
  • “English is not our language,” said Takiyah Hudson, a 17-year-old high school senior who lives in Harlem. She said her mother and sister correct her English when she slips into a black dialect, which she does not use in formal situations.
  • The issue is exquisitely sensitive, going beyond nouns and verbs to questions of racial identity and class, as well as the politics of education. There is some sentiment among the black middle class that the vernacular legitimizes poor grammar. Others blame schools for not teaching standard English better because teachers have low educators of the dialect, say it is time to become more sophisticated in the classroom.
  • Francesca Charles, a 17-year-old junior at Clara Barton High School in Brooklyn, said students who speak only in dialect are not understood outside their communities. “People don’t understand you, or they put words in your mouth. That’s why they’re viewed so badly,” she said.
  • “During slavery, blacks created their own langauge The students create their own language to communicate among themselves,” she said. *This will be a connection to another piece of material that I am studying.*
  • Ramon C. Cortines, the Schools Chancellor, said teachers need to correct their students’ English and prepare them for the mainstream. “I don’t know of any jobs or any college where a prerequisite is a dialect,” Mr. Corintes said. “The problem with American education is we get caught up in fads and don’t teach the basics.”
  • “The problem is not the students but many of my colleagues,” said a Bronx elementary schoolteacher who did not warn her name used. “We need to stop finding excuses for not teaching. When my students use bad English, I tell them it is bad English and that it has nothing to do with the color of their skin.”
  • Jo-Ann Graham, chairwoman of the department of communication at the Bronx Community College, said teaching standard English is not simply cleaning up grammatical lapses. “It is not just saying, ‘You don’t say “they is” you say “they are,”‘ she said. “You have to teach the structure, the vocabulary, the sound system, the grammar just as if you were teaching another language.
  • The country’s largest school system to use such an approach is Los Angeles. Its “Proficiency in English” program, started in 1978, uses methods like repetitive drills to teach standard English like a second language. Several other California school districts, including Oakland, Sacramento, and Vallejo, use similar programs.
  • Contrastive analysis: Used by programs
  • Examples
  • Bidialectalism: Students retain their home or community dialect while learning and using the Standard English dialect of the school and larger society. (The format of this instruction is based upon the pedagogy of foreign language teaching and incorporates the used of contrastive analysis. Specifically, this approach compares Standard English phonological and syntactic features with those of the students’ dialect and is structured so that students can observe how their own linguistic features differ from those of Standard English.)
  • Ms. Wright-Lewis, a teacher at Boys and Girls High School in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn has students write and rewrite assignments. She makes them give oral presentation and participate in discussions that she privately assesses for syntax and grammar. She writes her own stories for students, in which characters switch back and forth between standard and non-standard English. And she corrects her students in private to help protect their fragile self-esteem. 
  • Diallo Robinson, 17, a senior at the East New York High School for Transit Technology, agrees that using the dialect is a matter of choice: “I don’t think language is not being taught adequately but that students choose not to fall in the line of being better than your brother or sister.
  • Mr. Evans, who teaches at Thomas Jefferson High School, said: “Needless to say, by the time they go to high school it’s an uphill battle,”. “The African-American inner-city kid has to turn it off and turn it on and be, in effect, bilingual.” “I tell them innate intelligence is not enough. If you speak well, it can solve a myriad of problems,” Mr. Evans said. “What they require is to see more men and women of color who are in power, who speak a certain way or dress a certain way.”

4. Alice Lee: Why “Correcting” African American Language Speakers is Counterproductive: I found this article to be amazing as far as background information of AAVE, knowing the difference between dialect and language, referencing major scholars in this topic, and also giving personal stories and experiences in order to understand why correct speakers of AAVE is, as she puts it, “counterproductive.” Lee has so many points surrounding what I want my thesis to be about, that I will only put down a few main points. The rest of the main quotes will be in a separate document, which you can click here.

  • Lee’s “Burning Questions”: Aren’t we doing our students a disservice by allowing them to talk like that in the classroom when they’ll be expected to speak standard English in the real world?
  • I also became more attuned to the ways teachers’ lack of knowledge about AAL (African American Language) played a role in their instruction.
  • Her professor: She informed me that AAL usage was only acceptable at home.
  • In this article, I would like to address the topic of AAL usage in the classroom, particularly the line of thinking that assumes “correcting” the language is what will “set students up for success” in the future. By providing some abbreviated information on how children acquire language, I will explain how AAL “correction” is not only a faulty perspective (since AAL is linguistically legitimate), actually counterproductive for student “success” – in both language acquisition and learning. Additionally, I will offer practical suggestions for how AAL can be incorporated into curriculum and instruction.
  • My goal in this article is not to provide a comprehensive linguistic background for AAL, but to provide cursory information to help readers understand why AAL is and should be considered a “real” language.
  • The term, African American Language, has also been referred to as Ebonics, African American Vernacular English, Black English, Black Vernacular English, and is defined by Smitherman (2006) in the following way: “Black or African American Language (BL or AAL) a style of speaking English words with Black flava-which Africanized semantic, grammatical, pronunciation rhetorical patterns. AAL comes out of the experience of U.S. slave descendants, This shared experience has resulted in common speaking has resulted in common speaking styles, systematic patterns of grammar, and common language practices in the Black community (pg 3).
  • The difference between a language and dialect is often defined by whether or not it is understood by speakers within the same group.
  • Smitherman argues, therefore, that what is considered a dialect versus a language is not solely based on linguistics, but involves decision-making entrenched in power.
  • As linguistics, both Labov and Smitherman have documented how AAL is systematically governed by rules-a defining marker for what is considered a “real” language.

For next week, I’m going to write about literacy and multiple literacies and why it’s important for my thesis. Also, a few scholars that I will be talking about will be Elaine Richardson, Sonja L. Lanehart, and more Lisa Delpit. I also will be talking about a documentary that I found about Black English! It’s the first documentary about AAVE, and I can’t wait to share my notes about it!

‘Til Next Time!

(Also: If you want to watch A Different World, it’s on Prime Video!)

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Writing & Technology & I Couldn’t Think Of A Clever Title

I feel that technology has a very unique place in the world of both reading and writing: whereas most people could make an argument that technology has been detrimental in some areas where it is prominent (communication for instance), it has been nothing short of beneficial to the way books are both written and consumed. Anyone who knows me will know that I am a big advocate of the Kindle e-reader (partially driven by my return to using Amazon after 3 years) and the very concept of it still blows me away to this day, even though it has become so rudimentary by now. Read your entire book collection on a screen that looks like paper, with a battery that lasts for weeks? How could anyone not like that?

And for the most part, thankfully, most people do seem to embrace it. While I thought I would be at odds with most of the English department over this, there seems to be a consensus where the most controversial opinion was that everyone has their own preference and as long as reading is being done, it should be done on any method. Yep, such a hot take. But still, it’s interesting to see how much of a divide there can be on this subject, particularly on the internet. There’s even a few advocates for the traditional books, citing things like unlimited “battery” and the “feel” of reading paper from a page (but not the potential of getting books wet, rotted, or having the print fade away depending on age, interesting).

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Pictured: My precious.

I don’t know my typing speed off the top of my head, but I know for a fact that I tend to be way more productive with writing when it comes to typing. And I know, typewriters have been a thing for the better part of the last century, but backspacing on a keyboard is several measures more convenient than retyping over a spelling error done on a ink ribbon. Several. I don’t write as frequently as I probably should, so I’m glad that my proficiency with a keyboard allows me to get out as many words as I had hoped, so I can reflect over the actual written text with greater efficiency. It feels weird, praising a keyboard when these things have been around since before I was even born, but I know for a fact that I probably wouldn’t have had as much of a fondness for writing, or even English in general, without its presence. I learned cursive the hard way in 4th grade and for some reason I prefer writing it that way all these years later.

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The PTSD is still very real. Also, those numbers aren’t even cursive, the hell.

Writing is writing, but sometimes software really makes the experience that much more pleasant and more efficient. Scrivener is a word that is synonymous with a scribe, clerk, or notary. It’s also a nifty mobile and desktop app that I’ve been using to work on my story and other narrative projects. The app itself is no more than a bunch of organization menus that you can freely tweak to your liking, but I believe that good organization is half the battle when it comes to good writing, and Scrivener is very much worth the entry fee. Was that an advertisement? Probably.

Where the magic happens.

Overall, I feel that we are in a great place in regards to technology and writing. The technology compliments the writing instead of hinders it, and the consumption of the media has been more accessible and pleasant than ever before. It’s fascinating to see how much has changed in the last few decades in how we write and read, but also how little it has changed from the standard paper and pencil. The more things change, the more they stay the same, and writing is perhaps one of the best examples in recent memory of this.

Killing Your Role Models

Over the past week I’ve had a conflict of epic proportions, one that kinda sorta went at odds with everything that I had believed up until recently. I thought voice actors were untouchable role models, someone that everyone should look up to. They come in all shapes and sizes, had a range of voices that could be sorted almost into a rolodex, and having met many of them in person, it’s no surprise that I could see them as people to look up to, and for the most part that had not changed…until this month.

Sexual harassment claims fly around Twitter, which had now been turned into a minefield of toxic Tweeting and allegations, and everyone who dared to step into it had gotten blown up. The lines had been drawn and I was forced to choose one, and choose it fast.

Sometimes silence is a valid option.

maxresdefault.jpgTelltale Games told me so, but now they no longer exist, so your mileage may vary.

That isn’t to say, I don’t have an opinion on the matter. But rather, it feels and even becomes irrelevant in the face of the thoughts expressed by the voice actors that I once considered role models. The amount of contempt, hatred, and unprofessionalism all around; can it be justified, given the context? Justified, given the lack of actual evidence given and the amount of false evidence generated? I’m not quite sure, but I do know it doesn’t feel right. No matter who may be right or wrong in this case, I do feel a little shaken up by the revelation that people who I looked up to, could be as hateful and mean as I had seen in this past month.

This begs the question, where do I separate the art from the artist? I’ll admit, the volume of the hostile opinions coming from many of my favorite voice actors has begged me to question as to whether my opinion on them should extend to the work they are featured in as well. The rational part of mean is saying that of course, they are separate. Bill Cosby’s (mis)deeds doesn’t take away from my fond memories of Little Bill, why should my opinion on a show or character change because of the actor? But deep down, I’m still coming to terms with the degrees of separation that I should be giving this situation. Nice actors play mean actors all the time in movies and films. So why does this feel so different? I believe this comes from the fact that voice actors give a character much of their personality that can’t be expressed from physical appearance. Sure, they have written lines and scripted actions, but you can never really take away that feeling that the voice actor delivers a performance that gives a character a life of their own, and therefore you typically associate a character’s strengths and flaws as an extension of the actor playing them.

But I digress. If there is anything that I’ve learned from this entire real-life anime, is that you don’t have to actually meet your role models to follow the rule of “never meet your role models”. Ironically, every single voice actor I have met (including the ones involved in this incident) have been nothing but pleasant and gracious in my interactions with them, and I hope that will never change in the future. But I did learn how to “kill” your role models as a result; recognizing that they are not without flaw or opinion and therefore you should not take it too personal if they do something that goes against your own thoughts. I’ve had a few broken pedestals since this happened, but I feel this is even more inspiration to work on my own projects; nothing would flatter me more to be a role model one day to someone, and hopefully I’ll do nothing that’ll change that too.

Now vs. Then

One of the struggles that I experienced when writing Godreign was the inevitable question of setting and protagonist. Particularly, what time period would this take place, and what about the main character would reflect that? While I can safely say that the final selection of the late 19th century and the character of was always my original choice, I have to admit that it wasn’t always the intended one.

Nothing in fiction happens without a reason. Even the non-linear structure of Ulysses or Pulp Fiction adds something to the narrative and presentation that wasn’t there if it didn’t include it in the first place. But I’m a strong believer in the idea of picking something and sticking to it as much as possible, so the non-linear approach simply wasn’t for me.

So, back to Godreign. I actually wrote parts of it in the present time, and called this experiment in scenery Modreign, both as a modern interpretation of the story and as a moderation of the story I have now. I ultimately decided to forgo the modern-day setting for a few reasons. For starters, most of the heroes carry a lot of weapons throughout the story; Zach (the protagonist) has a small arsenal by the end of the story, including a (semi-relevant to the story) revolver, lever-action rifle, shotgun, and short blade. Annabelle has her longsword, a blade attached to a chain (scarier than it sounds) and eventually learns to use a gun down the line. Considering the current climate in England and most of Europe today, where even home improvement tools can be considered deadly and illegal depending on who is using them (that’s a slope alright), it’s probably best if the current climate stays as far away from the story as possible.

Pictured: “Weapons” that Annabelle would sneer at endlessly.

On the subject of the present-day, there are some areas that I cover that may not be as transparent today as they were in the past. Women in most of the world couldn’t vote until 1928, even. Aside from the idea of a female knight being mostly wishful thinking at the time (which partially helps me explain a little more about Annabelle in the process), there’s also the tensions brought about thanks to the class system in place at the time. Zach used to work for an extremely wealthy businessman who was self-made, a concept that for some reason wasn’t entirely embraced back in Victorian times. Apparently it was considered “dirty money” and those people were considered outcasts anyway. Rich people, am I right folks?

Racial tensions were a problem, but not nearly as significant as they were in the United States at the time. Zach’s former mistress was of mixed British and Chinese descent, and combined with the “dirty money” she inherited, naturally she would end up making a few enemies even among her own class. It’s their fault, however. There’s also another character who is of Spanish/English descent, but had convinced everyone that she was exclusively English. She had also lived for several centuries up to that point in the story, so she’s had plenty of time to work on an accent too. Racial discrimination doesn’t have a major role in my story themes or lessons, but it helps explain why some characters seem larger than life; it’s because they had to be at the time.

Ultimately, the plot of my story can be done in most “modern” time periods, and I still haven’t completely given up on re-writing it for a modern setting. But so much of the character dynamics between Zach, a Victorian era Englishman, and Annabelle, a French knight during the last years of the Middle Ages, rely on them being from majorly different settings, yet developing camaraderie from their mutual sharEd military experience. That is the “now vs. then” within my story, and hopefully it expresses a good part of the humanism themes that do play a major role within my story.

Wish I Thought of a Reading List Sooner!

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Two weeks ago, I was given the challenging task of diving into a deep reading of various books and articles from scholars in the topic I want to look at for my thesis. (African American Vernacular English or AAVE for short). Although I am only a month into the process of my thesis, finding exactly what I want to discuss. During our Peer Review session two weeks ago, I discovered that my thesis seems to be wet cement. I am holding bricks in my hand to build a foundation, but I don’t know where to put the bricks or where to start. I know that the subject of AAVE is what I am wholeheartedly passionate about but what exactly?

I am happy and proud to say that my deep reading and studying of the reading list below was a success. I wish it were something that I had thought about earlier, then maybe I would be a little further along in my thesis. However, nothing was lost. Once you check out the reading list, it is ambitious to finish everything in two weeks. As I was reading Lisa Delpit’s Other People’s Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom, there was something that stood out to me, and it made me think that maybe this was where I could place my bricks. Native American teacher Martha Demientieff states this in Delpit’s book:

“We have to feel a little sorry for them because they have only one way to talk. We’re going to learn two ways to say things. Isn’t that better? One way will be our Heritage way. The other will be Formal English. Then, when we go to get jobs, we’ll be able to talk like those people who only know and can only really listen to one way. Maybe after we get the jobs, we can help them to learn how it feels to have another language, like ours, that feels so good. We’ll talk like them when we have to, but we’ll always know our way is best.” (pg 41)

In my previous blog, I expressed the concern or more the need to not write about my family for my thesis and focus on how language and the use of AAVE have affected not only me but my academic self. I am not going to fully exclude my family, but if you read the blog, you’ll see a few reasons why I want to go down a different path. I haven’t spoken to my professor or class about this decision yet, but I do believe I have done the right thing. I was about to focus on how language plays a part in forming one’s identity at a higher level and more than we think. The quote above from Demientieff perfectly articulates what I’m trying to develop my thesis around. (I think.) After reading that passage, I thought to myself, Yeah, why can’t we learn how to say things in two different ways?. I think about second language speakers of Polish, Russian, Italian, Portuguese, or French who are deemed to be skilled when balancing multiple languages even though their language use of Standard English is not always at its best. They may get a pass because they speak [set languages stated above]. However, when it comes to AAVE, switching languages seems to have a negative connotation to it. As if someone who speaks AAVE is considered having less knowledge or unintelligent.

Now, I do understand that when it comes to African Americans who speak this form of English has had ancestors who were denied access to education, and it was illegal for them to learn how to read and write. However, because of these limitations, we (the speakers of AAVE) have formulated a beautiful and complex language filled with vocabulary, grammar, and rhythm. We too can code-switch (switching back and forth from both languages) and know when and where to use Standard English and AAVE. I’m rambling, but I guess what I’m trying to say is: If it’s better to know two ways to say something, then why doesn’t my language fit in this category and not accepted? 

I’ll be honest, I still need help developing a thesis statement, but I do feel as if I am coming along well with the beginning stages of this process.

Reading List:

  • Lisa Delpit: Other People’s Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom (2006)
  • Bell Hooks: Race and Representation (1992)
  • Paulo Freire: Pedagogy of the Oppressed (2005)
  • John R. Rickford: What is Ebonics (African American English)? (2012)
  • Alice Lee: Why “Correcting” African American Language Speakers is Counterproductive (2017)
  • Felicia R. Lee: Lingering Conflict in the Schools: Black Dialect vs. Standard Speech (1994)
  • Samuel A. Perez: Using Ebonics or Black English as a Bridge to Teaching Standard English (1999)
  • John Baugh: American Varieties: African Amerian English: Ebony + Phonics (2005)
  • Sonja L. Lanehart: African American Vernacular English and Education: The Dynamics of Pedagogy, Ideology, and Identity (1998)
  • Liberation Education Project: African American Vernacular English (2017)
  • Tylah Silva: What’s the Difference Between Slang and AAVE?: Understanding the Cultural History of Language is Critical When Deciding Whether to Bae or not to Bae (2017)
  • Lisa Delpit: The Skin that We Speak: Thoughts on Language and Culture in the Classroom (2002) *Recently added to the list*
  • *This isn’t a book but it’s part of my research* The documentary Talking Black in America (Click Here for the link to their website).

I am excited to present what I have for class tomorrow but also nervous! I want this thesis to be at my best.

Until Next Week Y’all!

Previous Blogs for Pleasure Reading:

Jumping to the Halfway Point: Too Early for a Breakdown?

Hop in the Delorean…We’re Going for a Ride

Jumping to the Halfway Point: Too Early for a Breakdown?

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Photo by ‪Dima Visozki‬‏ on Pexels.com

I’ve always heard the saying, “A girl can change her mind, can’t she?” -Unknown, from television and movies. However, when it comes to my academic studying and thesis, could I actually change my mind? Is it too late?

Lemme break it down. 

The day after our Valentine’s Day class I was not only excited about the further steps of my thesis, I was energized by the unknown knowledge that I still have to discover. It seems as if my mind has become “obsessed” about language and identity within the African American community. It’s not because I am not interested in other languages and culture; it’s more because there is, in fact, a name, a coined term for the way I speak at home that goes beyond “just talking English.” It’s not Ebonics either. African American English or African American Vernacular English (AAVE) is what I heard in my house growing up and even when I went to my grandparents’ house. I never thought they spoke incorrectly. It was as simple as, I heard, I understood, I communicated back. As I became more passionate about the power of this subject and newly found territory, I was eager to share what I have studied so far with my family. Unfortunately, this approach took a wrong turn.

As I expressed specific concerns and questions to a couple of family members, very close ones, and my thesis was…well…ripped to shreds. Pulverized. Torn apart. Torn from limb to limb. (You get the idea.) Now, these family members are brilliant with multiple degrees in THEIR particular field of study. I delivered the very early foundation of my thesis, which was how AAVE has not been given the opportunity to evolve as a means of declaring something that’s ours. Long story short, I had not one but two breakdowns. I doubted myself and was hard on myself. I live for my family’s approval, and when I don’t receive it, it’s almost as if a switch turns off in my brain. I’m not smart enough. I can’t do this. Blah Blah Blah.  I spoke to my boyfriend about this and basically brought my breakdown to him. (I mean, I was very ugly crying and hyperventilating.) After he calmed me down, he told me, “I don’t expect you to have the answers to everything. Nobody does!” That’s when it clicked for me.

I have decided to not include my family in my thesis, and I have a few reasons why:

  1. From before I was born, I had a swarm of support from family and even non-family members who just knew I had a great purpose in my life. I mean, why else would I be born 14 years after my brother? There had to be a reason. However, I never had the chance to breathe and figure it out on my own.
  2. For as long as I could remember, I was told, “you’re so smart” or “you know better than that” (even though I was seven). I never had the chance to stop and think, what am I smart in? What is something that could be just for Vee and not something that everyone has an opinion on? My family is my life, but I think it’s time that some things in my life need to be just for me.
  3. My whole undergraduate thesis was about my family, for 90 pages. It’s not because I have nothing else to write about, but it’s like I mentioned before. My family is my life. Also, there are some pretty interesting stories that I felt was important to write about. I think for this thesis, it’s time to separate from my family and see what I can write and produce on my own.

Now, on to a more lighter note; I have been reading and studying the books, articles, and authors that were suggested from last class along with some articles I found on my own. I also took the peer review notes from class and have been trying to make a clearer thesis statement and focus on what I am trying to accomplish with this thesis. Specifically something my fellow classmate Kelli said, “Make it clearer how you are going to approach this issue and how much you is going to be in this?” What’s making me nervous at this point is that I still don’t have a clear question. “The burning question,” as Dr. Zamora would call it, is what I lack so far. What I am hoping is that my reading list and early research will help me develop a clear question and thesis statement.

Since I am separating this thesis from my family, I am wondering if simply using my own experiences will be enough. I will check back in a week and share my notes from my research.

Until Next Time! ♥

Other Blogs!

Hop in the Delorean…We’re Going for a Ride

“At the Family Reunion! Who We Introducin’? Who We Introducin’?”

Taking The Time

“When I sit down to write a book, I do not say to myself, ‘I am going to produce a work of art.’ I write it because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing.” – George Orwell

This is it. What I’ve been working towards for the last two to six years, depending on who you asked. And if you asked me, I’d say that for the most part, I still don’t know how I got here.

Well, I mean I KNOW how I got here. I persisted through 4 years of undergraduate college and a year and a half of graduate college, that much is clear to me. But there’s always that lingering question, that ultimate million dollar answer. Is what I’m doing, my Master degree in Writing Studies, what I feel is worth striving for? Was it worth picking over the other things that I could have possibly went in, such as Communications?

My first love for literature and writing came in the second grade, shout out to Ms. Lisa. Hope you’re still around sharing the same love for literature as you did before, but even if you aren’t, I take comfort in the fact that her influence was enough for me to pursue this as far as I have. Reading the supposedly taboo Captain Underpants books at the time. It was this type of reading that influenced my initial thoughts, that chapter books didn’t have to be walls of text that couldn’t be deciphered, that books are for entertaining as much as they are informing. It should be no surprise now that I try to carry a Captain Underpants book in my school bag at all times. I’d get the Kindle versions but they don’t really translate too well that way. Especially since they’re now in full color. Maybe some day.

The point I think I’m trying to make is that while I admittedly don’t do nearly enough of it as I should, writing has changed my life for the better and perhaps that is my biggest catalyst for why I push so hard to try to “give back” in a way through my Master’s degree. So to answer my earlier question, I may have had given it a second thought if I could restart my undergrad degree again (only because I have just as much love for Communications, but that’s another blog), but ultimately I went with English and writing studies because I feel that helps me help define myself, and if I can remember that throughout the writing of my thesis and first novel: Godreign: Grand Contingency, I hope my fascination and admiration for my chosen field of study shines through. And while my writing time is a bit relaxed compared to my contemporaries, I’m going to double down on the amount I do in order to finish what I started years ago.

And that’s why I’ve decided to call this blog “The Space Between It All”, because in a schedule that feels absolutely packed at times (even if some of that schedule is occupied by my mandatory video gaming sessions), I can still find a time and a space to write what I think and what I feel. Although I suspect I’ll be ranting mostly.

More people don’t rant enough. If more people ranted I suspect their emotions would be more balanced overall. It would certainly make them feel better, at least. Or maybe there would at least be some sort of semblance of the “raging against the heavens” concept that I kinda admire to an extent. Not the actual “raging” part, that seems like a waste of energy. But rather the type of attitude that leaves someone questioning anything and everything that happens to them. I’m not saying it’s always the work of a higher power, that’s what Jehovah’s Witnesses are for. But rather, if more people took the time to question the concept of fate and the control their have on their daily lives instead of just leaving it all up to chance, I feel it would help people manufacture a more balanced thought process than the ones that are currently plaguing people my age. Depression is terrible. Life has too many good things in it to be worried about one particular thing for too long. To paraphrase Abe Lincoln, if you can picture yourself in the future where you are smiling or at least happy, then you can deal with anything that comes your way in the meantime”. Ah, Honest Abe. A five dollar bill is perhaps the most versatile when it comes to paper money. Maybe that’s why he’s on it. Or something. Was that a rant? Probably. Still felt great however. I’m ready to wrap this up! Put me in, coach! Er, Dr. Zamora!

“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”- Sylvia Plath

Beefing Up the Intro

Last week in class Dr. Zamora helped me come to the decision to remove the interview section of my thesis.  This was to reduce the stress of jumping through IRB’s hoops, and it was also too cut down the thesis a bit, as Dr. Zamora felt that including and analyzing interviews would make the thesis more like a dissertation in terms of length and work.  I have to say, it is a relief to have one less thing to worry about, especially something that was so vulnerable to things I cannot control, i.e. other human beings.  I had been back-and-forth with whether or not to include interviews and surveys since last semester, or possibly even the semester before that.  I felt like discourse and rhetorical analyses of community artifacts, autoethnography, and field observations just wouldn’t be enough, or perhaps like those methods alone weren’t scholarly and study-y enough.  See?  That same old doubt is still dogging me!  Dr. Zamora assured me, however, that the aforementioned methods would yield plenty of “meat” to create a substantive thesis.  Mmm… Thesis meat…

When I broke the news to one of the people I had already lined up for an interview, they were actually disappointed.  They revealed that they had been bragging to a friend earlier that same day about the planned interview.  It’s pretty neat to know that my thesis had this particular person excited, as they were the one who had first introduced me to closed species.

As I expressed in my last blog post, this week was mostly centered around finishing up the Griffia section of my Introduction.  I got a draft written of the stuff I wanted to say, but I still need to go back in and add the “proto-citations,” as a good deal of the information I wrote about was just stuff that I had learned during my time in the community.  By the way, I just made up that term: proto-citation.  That’s what I’ve decided to call the little note I make after a statement in a rough draft that states where I got the info from but is not a full, fleshed-out, formatted citation.  It’s just so I know what to cite later when I get to the next draft.

I also curated some more images, some of which I plopped right into the draft, and some of which I put into a “For Appendix” area.  I made the decision to include colorful, eye-catching examples of each species in the section that introduces them rather than just anatomical sketches and the like.  I realized that if I want readers to become as excited as I am about these creatures, I should give them examples that are demonstrative as well as fun.

Another task with which I was charged last class was to start preparing for my Lit Review proper by going back into my resources to re-familiarize myself and start working out which resources converse with which other ones.  I went back into my Zotero and read through the notes I had made for many of the entries, and in so doing I realized I needed to add another section to my Introduction.  I needed to explain to readers what the heck DeviantArt is!  I had gathered a few resources which I had noted were for that express purpose, but I somehow forgot to factor them into the outline.  I guess I fell into that trap of assuming everyone in the field would know what it was because two of my professors did.  I added that section in between my statement of purpose and my overview of the three closed species communities I’d be covering.  I began writing it based on comments my father had made when I told him about the website, but I did not finish the newborn section.  I guess that’s where I’ll pick up in the coming week, in addition to diving headfirst into the Lit Review!

Text and the CITI

At the end of our class meeting last week, I was given two main tasks for homework.  The first of these was to reach out to the OSRP department to ask about certain elements of the IRB process; the second was to write out a draft of the entire Introduction section of my thesis.  I did the first task, and I was not very pleased with the result.  I finished 2/3 of the second task.

From the response to my email to OSRP, I learned that the target population for my research would not be considered a vulnerable population, but it would be considered a high-risk population.  That was good news.  The bad news came in the answer to my second question regarding the equivalency of the NIH ethical treatment of human research subjects training and the CITI training listed on the IRB application.  As of May 2017, Kean no longer accepts the NIH training.  At first, I was a little annoyed.  I thought I’d just have to do a similar course that might take me a couple hours of my time.  When I looked into the CITI training, however, I learned that it is something for which I’d have to pay at least $60.  Or at least that’s what it looks like. I am aware of the great responsibility researchers take on when they endeavor to use human subjects in their work.  I appreciate the need for would-be researchers to learn about this responsibility.  I do not, however, appreciate having to pay $60 to be inconvenienced and learn something I was already certified (for free!) as having learned.  Maybe I sound stingy or petty, but I’m just frustrated right now…  I’m really going to have to discuss this with my professor.

As far as my Introduction, I was able to write out drafts of the overviews for two of the three communities I will be examining, GremCorps and CCCats.  This included selecting and placing the images I would like to use in those sections.  I did not get to finish the Griffia overview, as Griffia is a lot more complicated than the other two in terms of the mechanics and lore.  Unlike GremCorps and CCCats, which are focused around a single species, Griffia is actually a union of three different groups with dozens of species.  It also contains more gamified elements.  I anticipate using the coming week on the Griffia section alone.

 

Unearthing a Niche

I have been busy mining the Internet for resources, and I think I finally hit a rich vein!  When I switched my searches to the topic of art therapy, I came across a lot of relevant articles.  One of these articles in particular has helped me to kind of nail down the niche my research will be filling, or at least one of them.  John Swales’s Creating a Research Space (CARS) Model emphasizes the importance of establishing such a niche to answer the “so what?” of one’s research and situate it within a larger scholarly discussion. With that in mind, I am pretty excited to have a more solid idea of my niche.

In Natalie R. Carlton’s article “Digital Culture and Art Therapy,” (2014) she emphasizes the need for art therapists to better understand digital art and culture in order to best serve their clients in our current tech-focused society.  Apparently, at the time of the article’s publication, there wasn’t much research to go around about online culture, digital art, and their therapeutic potential.  Since the article isn’t that old, I am guessing that this gap still needs some more chunks of scholarship to help fill it in.  I’m going to keep looking, of course, to make sure, but the way I’m seeing it, the art therapy community is hungry for more research about art-related online participatory cultures.

The article also had a ton of cited works that I found helpful.  I’ve saved almost all of them to my computer, and I plan to read at least one a day for the next week.  I also found a lead to a book I’m either going to ask about at Kean’s library or buy for myself.  It’s called The Art Therapist’s Guide to Social Media: Connection, Community, and Creativity by Gretchen M. Miller.  It seems tailor-made for my topic, and the abstracts I’ve found for some of the chapters/articles included in it specifically mention participatory cultures!

My immediate goal is, as stated above, to read at least one article a day for the next week.  Aside from the ones I have recently saved, I have a backlog of other articles I haven’t read in many months, and I need to reacquaint myself with them.  I also want to reread Henry Jenkins’s book Participatory Culture in a Networked Era.  I have the book, but I haven’t looked at it since my leave of absence last semester. All of this is leading toward my larger goal of having my Literature Review done by the end of this semester.  If I can’t get the whole lit review done, I at least want one section of it complete: either the participatory culture part or the art therapy part.  I would also like to have my survey designed by the end of the semester.  We’ll see about that, though.  Survey design may need to be an early summer thing.

Again, I’d like to thank everyone who’s been reading, and especially those who have reached out to me with leads and resources.  I am doing my best to make you all proud!