Seminar 1: #WhyWeCantWait: African American Rhetorical and Pedagogical Traditions for Social Justice
Tamika Carey and Elaine Richardson
In 2014, Black women launched the hashtag #whywecantwait to call for a recognition of gender within the discussions of racial justice initiatives launched by President Obama at that time. The argument behind #whywecantwait has already had implications for our study of rhetoric. With their 2014 hashtag, Black women activists echoed the paradigm-shifting arguments of intellectuals like Anna Julia Cooper whose “when and where I enter the whole race enters with me” statement continues to enrich our understanding of tensions inherent in community formation, group agency, and activism among women and people of color, and they illustrated the potential of these groups to mobilize within online spaces.
The goal of this seminar is to extend this work. Working from the premise that when Black women get free, we will all be free, we set forth African American Rhetoric as part of a broader social justice project that takes into account the myriad interlocking systems of oppression without diminishing groups’ experiences yet stays on the goal of total liberation. Our work will be to consider: how might we operationalize African American Liberation and Rhetoric as part of a broader social justice project that allows for a multiplicity of our identities in pursuit of equitable future(s)? While we continue to recognize African American rhetorics and pedagogies as communicative strategies and educational projects rooted in the freedom struggle of people of African descent, we also recognize that interrogating these intertwined traditions of praxis and pedagogy enable us to recover, theorize, and develop action-taking, knowledge-making, and community-sustaining resources that can be employed in these endeavors.
We will follow a three-part agenda in pursuit of this goal. First, we will read and discuss a shared bibliography on African American rhetorics and pedagogies and their influences, readings that may include the work of such scholars as Geneva Smitherman, Keith Gilyard, Jacqueline Jones Royster, Elaine Richardson, Kirt Wilson, Adam Banks, Gwendolyn Pough, Carmen Kynard, Eric Darnell Pritchard, and others. Secondly, we will place our own research into conversation with the aforementioned scholarship to identify sites of inquiry, methodological tensions and innovations, and evolving ethics for conducting research on African American rhetorics and pedagogies. Finally, we will work collaboratively to translate this work into practicable pedagogies that make space for African American rhetorics in our various curricula right now.