Navigating Contrived “social justice-based” Non-profit Spaces: Operationalizing Intersectionality in the Name of Black girlhood

Sierra J. Austin

Scholars, practitioners and activists across the country are working diligently to elucidate the unique structural constraints that mark Black girlhood during a time of Black violability. Crucial to these analyses is the interrogation of the ways in which inequities promote detachment and disengagement from school, exacerbating the school to prison pipeline crisis. From the perspective of an emerging Black girlhood scholar and former non-profit director, this presentation focuses on the successes of working with Black girls using practices framed by Black feminisms and new literacy studies, as well as the challenges presented in advocating for Black girls in white feminist capitalist-driven, faux-philanthropic spaces.

‘Professional’ Black Girl Literacies: “We ova dem’ stereotypes… gimme’ me a double dose of da Black Girl Prototypes”

Caroline N. Bennett

On Friday, September 9th, 2016, Dr. Yaba Blay launched the Professional Black Girl YouTube web series that was created to “celebrate the everyday Black girl. From the back porch to the beauty supply store.” Blay remarks that her conscious deployment of the term ‘professional in front of the words Black Girl is political, public and personal. This research paper will situate the Professional Black Girl YouTube series in an emerging cadre of Black women in digital spaces. In the twenty-first century, Black girls’ digital literary practices continue to proliferate as both consumer and producer of knowledge. I, however, will focus on how Black girls’ digital literary practices and engagement with the Professional Black Girl YouTube web series can inform their ways of negotiating boundaries of ascribed identities. I will explore the conversations between the Black women that Dr. Yaba Blay interviewed and provide an analysis of four episodes that will bring to the fore nuances in Black girlhood and Black women’s intergenerational literacy practices. I will draw connections from content in these four episodes to offer a unique Black Feminist/Womanist media analysis. Employing a Black Girls Literacies Framework, I argue that that the embodiment of ‘Professional Black Girl’ identities is complex, fluid, multifaceted, and unlimited. How can Black Girl Literacies be understood as a collective or shared ways of being and knowing without purporting a monolithic Black girl experience, identity or truth?

“The Only True Man I Ever Meet:”
Carrie Wright, the Ethiopian Prince, and the Intersections of Race, Gender, & Class in the History of Black Nationalism

Brandon R. Byrd

At the end of World War I, a man calling himself Prince Challoughlczilczise and claiming to be from Ethiopia appeared in Oklahoma. Although he echoed many of the ideas of Marcus Garvey and made overtures to Garveyites, he attempted to build a black nationalist movement distinct from Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). To that end, he established the Reformed Coptic Church of East Africa and the International Ethiopian Rescue and Relief Conference (IERC).
Historians have ignored that movement but the prince’s contemporaries did not. One of his most devoted apostles was Carrie Wright, a black domestic who, like thousands of other African Americans, migrated to Oklahoma from the Deep South. Seeing herself as part of a broader African Diaspora, Wright made a literal investment in the prince. She provided hundreds of dollars to his organizations and helped bring other working-class black Oklahomans to his movement. In return, she expected that Challoughlczilczise would fulfill his promises to marry her and take her to Africa. When the prince broke those promises and failed to meet her expectations of black manhood, Wright helped bring about the demise of his movement. Drawing on previously overlooked sources including correspondence in the Du Bois Papers, articles from black newspapers, and U.S. government records, my paper analyzes the relationship between Challoughlczilczise and Wright. I argue that it illustrates two interconnected points: first, the proliferation of Afro-diasporic imaginings and mobilizations beyond Marcus Garvey and the UNIA during the interwar years; second, the central role that black women (especially those from the working-class) played in black nationalist movements despite the chauvinism of their male counterparts. By examining the expectations that Wright placed on the prince and other black male leaders and analyzing her understanding of black womanhood and black liberation, this paper advances the scholarship on black intersectionality. It further highlights the intersections of race, gender, and class in African American history while bringing attention to the revealing albeit ignored story of the rise and fall of the Challoughlczilczise movement.

A Moment of Despair: Haitians in Chicago, 1957-1985

Courtney Pierre Cain

Since the late 18th century, there has been a unique relationship between Chicago and Haiti, with Jean Baptiste DuSable founding the global city in 1779. Since then, a vibrant diaspora has formed in the city. However, much of the literature focuses on the Haitian diasporas in New York and Miami due to their size and visibility. My project aims to fill that gap by examining the formation of the Haitian diaspora over 20th century. Using oral histories, newspaper data, and other local archival information, I argue that Chicago’s Haitian diaspora is dispersed by class and space but connected through social networking endeavors, including churches, voluntary organizations, and social traditions. Moreover, I argue that there is a long legacy of Haitian influence and presence in Chicago, starting with Jean Baptiste du Sable, that set the stage for a vibrant diaspora to form since the end of the US Occupation in Haiti. By examining this different diaspora, this project sheds light on the diasporic Midwest and new understandings of blackness in a post-Civil Rights, post-Obama era. This presentation is drawn from the third chapter of my dissertation, which examines the impact of the Duvalier regime on Haitian migration to Chicago. The pervasive dictatorship of Francois and Jean Claude Duvalier led to the mass exodus of Haitians, and they migrated in places like France, Canada, and the United States. The Chicago diaspora of Haitians became more visible due to this mass migration, and their presence added complexity to shifting understandings of race in the city and nation. That is, they helped to redefine what it meant to be black during black freedom struggles in the US. Their presence also adds the important dimension of cultural and ethnic identity to understandings of blackness, showing the varied intersections of black identities in this moment and beyond.

Mi raza es dominicana”: Afro-Caribbean Racial Negotiation as a Unique Lens for Approaching U.S. Racial Hegemony

Keara K. Goin

Through living their lives, U.S. Dominicans actively contest hegemonic paradigms that deem to label, categorize, and neatly situate them within ideologies that are finding it increasingly difficult to maintain themselves. Scholars like Juan Flores suggest that as Caribbean Latina/os engage with U.S. notions of blackness, they are faced with very real and persisting challenges to how they fashion their identities; making the negotiation of dominicanidad within the U.S. in a state of flux and constant becoming. Many scholars have reduced Dominican racial identification as a process of denial. Suggesting that Dominicans reject their blackness is an over-simplification of a system of racial thinking that is based in notions of mestizaje and the blending of separate heritages. It is all too easy for U.S. academics to read the body and identify it as Black and to subsequently fault those who do not read their own bodies the same way as rejecting the obvious. However, insisting that blackness be central to the discussion of Dominican ethnoracial reality merely obscures the fact that what is occurring through these criticisms is a re-hashing of the biological determinism critical race theorists have fought so hard to discredit. I, therefore, attempt to re-center dominicanidad as it is understood by Dominicans living in the U.S. Whether they associate with blackness or latinidad, or if they are just lost in the maelstrom of transcultural ethnoracial identity negotiation, they serve as a critical interjection into the ways discourses, and the ideologies they support, are understood.

Complications of Blackness and Indianness in Oklahoma and Texas, 1870-1900

Leroy Myers

Oklahoma was the center of a national debate concerning the term “freedmen” during the late nineteenth century. It centered on whether or not African Americans and black Indians were “freedmen.” The legacy of Oklahoma as a racially fluid space is essential to the “freedmen” controversy. Oklahoma was home to Native Americans, black slaves, and black Indians throughout most of the nineteenth century. However, emancipation complicated black identity in the region. It caused mass African American migration from the south, particularly Texas. In turn, black movement fueled rapid development of predominately African American settlements in Oklahoma. Native freedmen, meanwhile, wanted to stay with their respective tribes (specifically the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, and Seminole) due to the civil rights and land granted to them by treaties in 1866 and earlier. This project demonstrates the intersections of black and Indian identities in the American West. The dominant white society questioned both the Indianness and blackness of Native American freedmen, which came at the expense of the larger African American freedmen population in the United States. However, the federal government made a distinction between Oklahoman freedmen and United States freedmen. This categorization disregarded how “freedmen” identified themselves. Oklahoman freedmen, for example, often identified with their respective tribes, while United States “freedmen” identified as “black.” Ultimately, the legacy of black American migration to Oklahoma forged a caustic relationship between Native freedmen and black Americans in Oklahoma well into the twentieth century.

Entre Blanco y Negro: Theorizing Morenidad as a Critical Site of Race and Color

Ana M. Perez

What does morenidad mean in a Mexican American context? This paper frames the concept of morenidad in a Mexican (American) context to problematize the centrality of mestizaje in popular discussions of race and color. I define morenidad as a framework to theorize the multiple manifestations of Mexican brown-black related identities and categorizations. The focus of this discussion centers the experiences of Mexican women residing in south central Florida, in the Tampa Bay region. I employ a positioned, interpretive and conversational analysis of first-person and semi-structured interviews that highlights the on-the-ground engagements with race and color. I found that most study participants identified with a variation of the intersectional category of morena. I centralize language as a major site of negotiation; particularly in the nuanced ways that women of Mexican descent engage in relationality to approximate their own color in comparison to others. This feminist critical race approach destabilizes the centrality of mestizaje as a primary framework to suggest a speculative form of Blackness. I argue that morenidad is a disruptive discourse that pushes at the boundaries of mestizaje, revealing a marginalized discourse of blackness. The variations of morena embedded in participants’ self-descriptions reveal the significance of ambiguity, approximation and relationality of morenidad. Most telling, their accounts reference a range of skin colors and tones symbolically located between a black and white color continuum. This finding complicates contemporary racial theories that presume that Mexican and Latin American racial ideologies reject and eliminate black and white polarizations.

“Stay Woke”: The Language and Literacies of #BlackLivesMatter

Alice Ragland, M.Ed.

This presentation illuminates the language and literacies of the #BlackLivesMatter movement through examination of its aesthetics, including Black American and Diasporic language practices in chants, freedom songs, and phrases (i.e. stay woke) that push forth Black sounds and Black thoughts into the universe online and on the ground. The presentation offers linguistic, contextual, historical, cultural, and spiritual significance of language use in the #BlackLivesMatter movement by linking these patterns to the history of Black social movement, social change, and revolution. The new literacy practices of the movement are also discussed, including the use of social media, memes, movement merchandise, and visual protest methods that have been important forms of resistance.

“Mek Ah Tel Yuh” (Let me tell you): Blackness as Praxis and Cultural Production in Afro-Costa Rica

Nicole D. Ramsey

What does it mean to be black in Central America? In recent years, an increase in scholarship on blackness in Latin America and the Caribbean has worked to situate the Black Diaspora in regions and places that have not always been represented (whether in the media or historical record). Although work on Afro-Latinx identities and blackness in Latin America has gained traction in digital circles, Afro-Caribbean and West Indian convergences in Central America complicate conceptions of what it means to be an African descendant in such places like Panama, Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Scholarship on Blackness in Central America has primarily focused on anthropological studies of race and culture; exploring what it means to be black and Central American alludes to greater understandings of identity-making within Latin America, Central America and the Caribbean. This paper looks at historic and contemporary conceptions of identity and cultural production among Creoles (Negros Ingleses)/West Indians in Costa Rica. In utilizing interpretations of blackness, transnationalism and migration as my entry point, I show how constant negotiations of identity among West Indian and Creole populations illuminate how they grapple with history, citizenship, belonging, and national identity within this space.

BlackGirlLinguistix and Discourse Practices around Ratchet Literacies

Elaine Richardson

Applying insights from Hiphop feminism, Black language and literacies research, and Black girlhood and Black feminist studies, this work examines discursive practices of Black middle school girls as they negotiate being and becoming. Through analysis of examples drawn from discussions in an after-school space focusing on the lived experiences of Black women and girls, and media representations of young Black women in popular culture and rap videos, this paper examines Black teen girls’ experiences of ratchetness as a site of knowledge, pleasure, sexual power and vulnerability. The work highlights implications for critical collective literacies for empowerment among Black women and girls.

Fashioning Afro-Brasilidade: Yoruba-oriented Blackness and the social significance of Yoruba linguistic practices in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil

Adrienne R. Washington

Although Portuguese is the dominant language of Northeastern Brazil, Yoruba forms an undeniable part of the local image of places like Salvador da Bahia, where it is cultivated as a heritage language and cultural patrimony. Yoruba borrowings, like axé [‘power’] and orixá [‘ancestral spirits/divinities’], pervade in the Brazilian Portuguese lexicon. Similarly, Salvador’s city center is filled with businesses whose names stem from and support narratives about the Yoruba contribution to Salvador’s and even Brazil’s heritage following centuries of intense cultural and linguistic contact. This paper continues the trajectory in Africana studies, sociolinguistic, and linguistic anthropological research through an examination of the impact of social context on the sociolinguistic situation (retention and redevelopment) of Yoruba linguistic practices in Salvador. My research demonstrates that the current status of Yoruba lies in the social values that these linguistic forms carry in Salvador within local cultural frames, whereby Blackness, African heritage, nationhood and related spiritual/religious identities as well as cultural ideas about personhood (ideologies about race, heritage and nation) are negotiable through African and Africanized cultural, spiritual and linguistic practices. Here, I will centrally explore local articulations of “authentic” Black identity, which entail a globalized, “African-oriented expression” discursively enacted by mobilizing Yoruba language and linguistic practices. Ultimately, I show that cultural narratives that construe the intersection of Yoruba linguistic practices with notions of race, heritage and nation have implications for the form, function and fate of the Yoruba language locally and vice versa: that Yoruba linguistic practices shape social identities in Salvador as well.