Category Archives: Equity, Justice, & Social Change

Event Recap: Liberation Literacies Pedagogy: At the Intersection of Language, Race, and Power with Dr. Jamila Lyiscott

In her workshop on April 5th, Dr. Jamila Lyiscott, aka, Dr. J, began by thanking all those who made this event happen, as the quest towards justice cannot be taken for granted. We were then put into breakout rooms for a short activity, with the following instructions:

1. Choose a ‘whistle-blower’

2. Answer the question, “should multiple literacies be allowed in classrooms?”

3. You are only allowed to use two syllables or less for the duration of the conversation

4. If this rule is broken, the ‘whistle-blower’ should make an obnoxious sound

In the reflection afterwards participants discussed how the limitations robbed their motivation to speak, but not because they had nothing to say. Dr. J shared how this exercise helps to reveal how harmful education spaces can be: enforcement of “standard” language norms turns faculty into “whistle blowers” robbing students’ motivation, while also preventing enforcers from hearing students. To combat these linguistic constraints, Dr. J pointed to the liberatory capacity of languages and the cultural practices of people of color in particular. She noted how she includes a unit in all of her classes on the cipher, sharing a poem of her own, “The Art of the Cipher,” on bringing liberatory practices into the classroom, asking at one point, “how many students do we label illiterate by societal standards?”

Dr. J discussed code-switching as a continuation of colonial violence, requiring a certain language in order to be validated within the classroom and other institutions. She referenced the work of Dr. Geneva Smitherman and Dr. April Baker Bell who both highlight language as a site of cultural struggle, a marker of social mobility. 

Dr. J then played a clip from Glamour,Uzo Aduba Never Liked Her Name,” where Uzo explains she asked her mother to call her Zoe because no one can say Uzoamaka, and her mother replied that if they can say other names (e.g.,Tchaikovsky, Michelangelo, Dostoyevsky), they can pronounce yours. Here Dr. J emphasized how our classrooms are not neutral spaces, and if we don’t intentionally work toward racial equity and healing, we are holding up social injustice.

Dr. J asked participants to reflect on the complicity they have in the institutional rewarding of Eurocentric knowledge and language practices. She outlined how liberation is different from inclusion in that it is about systemic change, breaking down oppressive logics, not reforming a broken system, not just having people of color doing the same work that upholds oppression. She discussed how the case of George Floyd and the media’s focus on underlying health conditions and intoxicants is another example of racist literacy practices; sharing literacies and language is not just about words — they contain cultures and histories.

She continued with suggestions on how to put liberation literacies into practice, including challenging paradigm principles, divesting from racist logics, and demanding participatory action and institutional alteration. It means pushing back against impulses to demand students of color perform whiteness to gain success: “Standard language is the language of people in power, it is not the language of power.” 

Dr. J read the poem “(Untitled)” by Brian Yoo, written in response to Texan lawmakers suggesting Asian people adopt easier names. The event then moved to a lively Q & A portion, with discussions on how to best support students so they can develop their voices and identities while being honest about how the world and the university institution operates, while working collectively to dismantle it.

Event Recap: Anti-Racist Pedagogy Workshop, Part 2

In the second workshop of this two-part series, Dr. Chavez focused on practical anti-racist teaching tools and methods for the writing classroom, many of which could be applied in other disciplines as well.  Dr. Chavez opened the workshop with powerful self-reflection exercises for participants, then shared active methods to involve students in the learning process as co-learners and collaborators. Throughout the workshop Dr. Chavez provided a wealth of resources for further reading. The event concluded with a Q&A session that included contributions from students at New York City College of Technology, CUNY. Since the workshop, several attendees have shared excitement about applying these critical strategies in the classroom, and continuing the conversation with others.

Originally from Albuquerque, New Mexico, Dr. Chavez is an award-winning educator with an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from the University of Iowa. She is the renowned author of The Anti-Racist Writing Workshop: How to Decolonize the Creative Classroom. Dr. Chavez currently serves as the Bronfman Creativity and Innovation Scholar-in-Residence at Colorado College. 

To learn more about Dr. Chavez’s work and to contact her, visit her website.

Anti-Racist Pedagogy Workshop with Felicia Rose Chavez, Part I (Event Recap)

The TLH Team smiling with Dr. Felicia Rose Chavez on Zoom

On February 8, 2022, TLH hosted part one of a two-part workshop on Anti-Racist Pedagogy: Adapting Our Teaching Habits, led by Dr. Felicia Rose Chavez. There were over 230 attendees! 

The workshop focused on introspection and reflection within the topic of anti-racism in the academy. Dr. Chavez led active self-reflective exercises and emphasized the importance of co-creating curricula with students. The second workshop centered on tangible teaching tools.  During both workshops Dr. Chavez shared a powerful vision for transformation! 

Originally from Albuquerque, New Mexico, Dr. Chavez is an award-winning educator with an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from the University of Iowa. She is the renowned author of The Anti-Racist Writing Workshop: How to Decolonize the Creative Classroom. Dr. Chavez currently serves as the Bronfman Creativity and Innovation Scholar-in-Residence at Colorado College. 

To learn more about Dr. Chavez’s work and to contact her, visit her website.

Announcing Our New Pedagogy Co-Leaders and Anti-Racist Workshops by Felicia Rose Chavez

TLH Pedagogy Co-Leaders, Dr. Javiela Evangelista (Left) and Dr. Jason Hendrickson (Right), are joining us this Spring 2022 semester to lead the Mellon TLH Faculty Fellows’ Seminars in collaboration with TLH Faculty Directors Dr. Cathy N. Davidson and Dr. Shelly Eversley. Drs. Evangelista and Hendrickson return as alumni of the Fall 2021 cohort to bring their vision and anti-racist, transformative pedagogies to the program this year. 

Dr. Javiela Evangelista, New York City College of Technology, African American Studies

An anthropologist, Javiela Evangelista engages in public and collaborative research that counters inequalities in the Caribbean and the African Diaspora. Her book manuscript provides an ethnographic analysis of the largest case of mass statelessness in the western hemisphere, the contemporary denationalization of Dominicans of Haitian descent in the Dominican Republic. Her research has been supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Center for Place, Culture, and Politics (CUNY), Mahindra Humanities Center (Harvard University), SSRC and PSC-CUNY. Evangelista’s work appears in National Political Science Review and Interdisciplinary Team Teaching: A Collaborative Study (Palgrave). She has developed multiple open educational resources, as well as courses, including The Heritage of Imperialism. A Futures Initiative Faculty Fellow (Spring 2022), Evangelista co-developed and will co-teach Black Diasporic Visions: (De) Constructing Modes of Power with Dr. Carla Shedd at the Graduate Center, CUNY. The course culminates in a public project. Ph.D., Anthropology (Graduate Center, CUNY). MA, Institute for Research in African American Studies (Columbia University).

Dr. Jason Hendrickson, LaGuardia Community College, English

As a faculty member at one of the most culturally diverse institutions in the country, Dr. Hendrickson works to educate students, staff, and faculty on issues of equity and justice. At the college, he serves on the President’s Advisory Council on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (PAC), and co-leads the Faculty and Staff of Color Collective (FSOC). In addition to teaching, his work at the college focuses on enacting institutional change as an advocate for student, staff, and faculty voices. He has also served as the Faculty Chair of the college’s annual Black Lives Matter Summit, bringing together local high schools with the college community for interactive workshops and guest speakers. Dr. Hendrickson’s scholarship and pedagogy combine literary analysis with contemporary issues of social justice to foster connections between the past and the present. He most recently published on equity in higher education and the intersection between vernacular language and justice in Paule Marshall’s early works.

Upcoming Events: Anti-Racist Pedagogy Workshops by Dr. Felicia Rose Chavez

Join us this February for a Two-Part Virtual Workshop Series focused on Anti-Racist Pedagogy: Adapting Our Teaching, hosted by Dr. Felicia Rose Chavez, author of The Anti-Racist Writing Workshop on Tuesday, February 8, 2022 and Wednesday, February 16, 2022 @ 4-5:15PM EST.


RSVP here.

Community Access and Equity in Health Education – Video from Student Projects

How do we define health? How do we access resources to maintain and promote healthy lives in our communities? This project explores these questions through community maps created by Urban Community Health students from Guttman Community College CUNY, which explore both resources and barriers to health in their home communities around the city. Challenging the model of individual responsibility and behavior change often prevalent in public health approaches, the maps provide a more equitable approach to health understandings and health education.

The opening event premiered this video featuring the students’ narration of their maps, in addition to a display of the maps themselves, both video and exhibit invite consideration of intertwined issues between political, educational, and media environments. We are evolving design for displays of information to facilitate dialogue and understanding between policy makers and stakeholders, to educate about inequities in health resources around the city, and expand ideas of how we might define and promote health more holistically in all communities.

08 community health mapping

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Thank you to TLH Faculty Fellows, Kristina Baines (Social Sciences and Anthropology, Guttman Community College), Anita Cheng (Film & Media, Art, Hunter College and Brooklyn College), Helen Chang (Behavioral and Social Sciences, Hostos Community College) and Kathleen Tamayo Ales (English, Queensborough Community College) for sharing the potential of community mapping for teaching about social structures that impact our health and wellbeing.

A whiteboard and video display showing student community mapping projects A video display screen showing the video linked in this blog post. Several people are in the background. Visitors to the exhibit view the student community health mapping projects Students from the class pose in front of their presentations Dr. Anita Chang stands next to the video display monitor and speaks with her arms outstretched. She is wearing a face mask and winter coat. Several students for the class pose for a photo. They are all wearing face masks and winter coats. A student poses in front of the video monitor, where they are also on the screen.

Video screen grab showing a student's essay and illustration of a tree in the palm of a hand and the title, Change Within"

Engaging students in the larger conversation

The team at TLH was thrilled to receive an email from Faculty Fellow Lara Saguisag (College of Staten Island, English), who wanted to share her students projects from the semester. Connecting the work in the classroom to what’s going on in the outside world had a big impact on her students, who completed their final projects with passion and excitement. Dr. Saguisag co-led the recent event, Creating Communities of Care in our Classrooms, a must-see presentation and conversation with TLH Faculty Fellows Jason Hendrickson (LaGuardia Community College), Reiko Tahara (Hunter College), and Cheryl C. Smith (Baruch College) and students about building community to support student success.

The theme of her ENL 323 section was was Narratives of Adolescence and Environmental Justice. Students produced a website that aims to engage young people in environmental justice. It includes reviews of books/films, profiles of youth activists, environmental justice actions young people can take, and much more. Check out the website, titled Call for Change (opens in a new window).

Her ENH 209 course theme was Literatures, Technologies, and Environments. For their final project, students had a public reading of poems, letters, and research projects which you can view here:

Public Reading: ENH 209 Culminating Activity

Final projects by the students of ENH 209: Literatures and Global Cultures (Fall 2021), College of Staten Island-City University of New York. These presentat…

She writes:

“Being part of TLH has really transformed my teaching and helped me think about designing assignments that allow students to become part of larger conversations. My students drew from their experiences and knowledges and were very passionate and excited about these projects. I just wanted to share these links with you as a way of thanking you for everything you do, for all you do to advocate for transformative learning.”

Thank you, Lara, for transforming your classes!

Who Set The Fires? Interrogating the 1969 Student Protests at Brooklyn College (CUNY)—A Theater for Development Project

by Dale Byam, Ph.D., Department of Africana Studies, Brooklyn College

In 1968, 19 (later reduced to 17) Black and Latino Brooklyn College students were arrested in their homes on charges of arson and rioting at the college. The students were detained at Rikers Island for 4 days. Though the charges were later dismissed, the incident marked a turning point for the College

Original caption: Mock Funeral: Students at Brooklyn Collee yesterday mourning “the death of justice,” referring to indictment and arrest of 17 students for arson and rioting. Girl in the foreground read Plato as the demonstrators passed by.

Continue reading

2021 Health Communication Symposium Recap

by David H. Lee, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Communication, Department of Humanities, New York City College of Technology

There are large disparities in health outcomes for New Yorkers according to race, gender, income, education, ability, etc. CUNY students from low-income families and racialized groups are among the hardest hit by the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic and among the most impacted by furloughs, unemployment, and crowded living conditions.

The 2021 Health Communication Symposium at City Tech was a public forum on health disparities. The event took place online and included guests and speakers from around the world. There were over eighty people on the call. Continue reading

A Free Printable Bookmark from the “Philosophy for Children Workshop: Anti-Racist Conversations at Any Age”

At the Philosophy for Children Workshop on Thursday, April 22, Prof. Cheri Carr (LaGuardia Community College) with her students Jesus Benitez and David Ortiz, talked about how inclusive thinking begins with how we treat our children. Between ages 2-5, children internalize racial bias and display attitudes similar to adults. By age 12, many children become set in their beliefs. Caring and invested educators and parents can unintentionally perpetuate anti-Black racism by promoting a colorblind approach to race stemming from their discomfort navigating conversations on race. Not talking about race reinforces racism in young children; talking about it encourages the development of positive attitudes and skills needed to advocate for racial justice. Continue reading

Towards a Critical, Decolonized Pedagogy: An Interactive (Re)Visioning

The field of Library & Information Science is often downplayed within spaces of higher education. Librarians are frequently positioned as somehow different than “teaching faculty,” considered the real scholars and educators, with the Library at the margins. And in a way, it’s true that the cornerstone of information literacy instruction – commonly known as the ‘one-shot’ – is a challenge, different than a semester-long course immersion. Librarians are tasked with offering a single session within which students will do the following: Receive guidance on how to assess sources, identify a scholarly article, accord to the standards of academic writing, properly cite sources, and perhaps, hopefully, become energized by the zest of research. At least, this is what we aim for. Continue reading