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Writing and Working for Change

 

During the 2011 NCTE Annual Convention in Chicago, Carlota Cardenas Dwyer presented this early history of the Latino/Chicano Caucus.

These convention sessions also highlighted the "Writing and Working for Change" Project.

 

See "Writing and Working for Change: Recognizing the Collective Work of Teachers within and across Diverse Identities," as mentioned in the September 2011 Council Chronicle, below

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Writing and Working for Change: A Digital Archive of Social Activism by Teachers of NCTE/CCCC is a project co-directed by Samantha Blackmon, Cristina Kirklighter, and Steve Parks that responds to the need to both preserve and expand access to records documenting the collective work of English teachers as a way of supporting NCTE’s commitment to social justice and equality.

In conjunction with efforts to chronicle historical moments for NCTE’s Centennial Celebration, this project specifically celebrates the collective work of teachers within and across diverse identities to ensure the field recognize and respect the language, educational, political, and social rights of all students and teachers.

A digital archive has been set up to document the work of NCTE/CCCC caucuses, committees, and task forces that have advocated within and outside of the profession to achieve these goals. Many of these groups are using this digital archive to interview their respective founders and write up their groups’ histories. Contact persons from various groups are asking NCTE members to help them in their search for archival material (see box above). 

New!   See video interviews with Malea Powell of the American Indian Caucus (part 1 and part 2) and with Martha Marinara and Mark McBeth of the Queer Caucus (part 1 and part 2).

Listening to Our Elders

Listening to Our Elders: Working and Writing for Change,
by Samantha Blackmon, Cristina Kirklighter, and Steve Parks, is now available!

 

 

 

Writing and Working for Change: Recognizing the Collective Work
of Teachers within and across Diverse Identities
from the September 2011 Council Chronicle

 

In 2011, NCTE will celebrate its 100th year of continued support to teachers of English, Writing, Composition, and Rhetoric. The Writing and Working for Change Committee intends to use this historical moment to recognize another singular and important achievement: the collective work of teachers within and across diverse identities to ensure the field recognizes and respects the language, educational, political, and social rights of all students and teachers.

 

Our main goals are to create a digital archive for identity-based caucuses and committees, online interviews, and founder and future leader panels, and a series of books that will chronicle these important identity-based histories.

--The Writing and Working for Change Committee (Samantha Blackmon, Cristina Kirklighter, and Steve Parks)

 

Recently NCTE asked the WWC Committee to share some thoughts on their work so far.

 

NCTE: Why is this project important at this particular time in NCTE’s history? 
WWC: Back in the late 1960s and 1970s, a former NCTE Executive Secretary and Director, Robert F. Hogan (a proud Irish American), and other leaders knew identity-based caucuses and committees represented an important part of the future of NCTE, and their prediction was right.  In 1977, Marjorie Farmer, the second African American NCTE President, said “There is a Commission on the Council’s Past. Why not a Commission on the Council’s Future? Why not a Commission on Dreams?” 

 

This project embodies part of NCTE’s past, its future, and dreams for a more inclusive organization celebrating our many identities. Perhaps this project embodies what these past voices were waiting for. 

 

NCTE: What special events do you have planned for the 2011 NCTE Annual Convention?

WWC: We will have three panels (with two as featured sessions) that will bring together pivotal founders/leaders as well as future leaders of various caucuses and committees. 

 

The G.01 featured session panelists will include presentations from Marianna Davis (Black Caucus), Carlota Cardenas Dwyer (Latino/a Caucus), and Rashidah Muhammad (Language Policy Committee). 

 

The J.01 featured session will include presentations from Morris Young and LuMing Mao (Asian/Asian American Caucus), Malea Powell and Joyce Rain Anderson (American Indian Caucus), William Thelin (Working Class Caucus), and Brenda Brueggmann (CDICC). 

 

The K.10 session will feature future caucus and committee leaders who will discuss what they learned from these leaders in a roundtable format.   They are Rose Gubele (American Indian Caucus), Jennifer Sano-Franchini (Asian/Asian American Caucus), Austin Jackson (Language Policy Committee), Pamela Roeper (Working Class Caucus), Kendra Mitchell (Black Caucus), and Tracey Flores (Latino/a Caucus).  Keith Gilyard has graciously agreed to host a reception to honor these speakers.  The Black Caucus and Latino/a Caucus will also sponsor a cultural event honoring these founders.

 

Is the Writing and Working for Change project proving successful as a way to “celebrate the collective work of teachers within and across diverse identities”?  
SP: Writing and Working for Change has collected stories from many of the caucuses and committees which highlight the ways in which teachers have worked to establish a productive and supportive environment for teachers within and across identity and heritages. Malea Powell discusses how in the early year of Native American organizing at C's, the Latino caucus served as an important incubator for such work. Other individuals, such as Jay Dolmage, have traced the emergence of Disability Studies in our field, citing the Committee On Disability Issues in College Composition, as an important organizing vehicle. Indeed, to read all the caucus histories together is to see how each continually seeks to work in alliance with each other, endlessly attempting to expand the collective voices they represent.

 

As efforts are underway to “chronicle historic moments” for NCTE’s Centennial, is the work of this project revealing any “historic moments” that deserve celebration? 

WWC: Part of the goal of this project was to shift what counts as an historic moment. Too often, "history" seems to be made when an article or book is published. Writing and Working for Change understands history to also be occurring when formally marginalized individuals form into collectives, enabling them to have a greater influence within our profession. In that way, the points at which the Black Caucus, Latino Caucus, and Queer Caucus were formed, among others,  are important historical moments. And it is out of those organizations that important resolutions, such as the Students Right to Their Own Language, emerge, or that a professional commitment to a diversity of voices in textbooks, such as one sees at NCTE, occurs. We also imagine the creation of mentorship networks, such as those embedded in caucuses such as the Native American Caucus, to be historically important, because they have ensured that the next generation of scholars will be more diverse and representative of who is in our classrooms.

 

What are examples of notable resources that teachers will have access to as a result of this project?

WWC: Teachers and students will have access to digital copies of historical documents, video interviews with caucus founders, and an online community where they can ask questions, network, and share information with other teachers, researchers, and students. Video interviews are still being finalized and will be compressed and uploaded as soon as possible.

 

The digital archive will be a community resource where members can research, share information, and network, and which members can also add to.

 

What has been the most rewarding part of this project for individual committee members?

Steve Parks: I have found it fascinating to learn of the ways in which the caucuses and SIGS emerged out of a deep and abiding faith that our profession could become more inclusive, democratic, and just in its work with teachers and students. The challenges faced by those who started these organizations were more severe and hostile than I imagined and, I think, speaks to the courage they exhibited. I think those who are just entering the profession will learn about what it means to be committed to literacy by reading these histories. And that, I find very rewarding.

 

Samantha Blackmon:  The most rewarding part of the project thus far has been the archival research. Sifting through the archives and uncovering documents from the formation of the identity-based caucuses taught me more about the caucuses and the organizations than I could have ever learned otherwise.

 

Cristina Kirklighter: As a longstanding member and current co-chair of the NCTE/CCCCs Latino/a Caucus, I have always wanted identity caucuses and committees to become a closer community.  One way to do this is to know each other’s histories and respect these histories that in many ways are not mutually exclusive but purposely and meaningfully interconnected.  This Centennial Celebration project offers us a way to strengthen our ties, and I have found it very rewarding to interact with different leaders and future leaders of caucuses and committees.

 

What comments or responses have you heard about the project from members of the NCTE/CCCC caucuses and other NCTE members?

WWC: We have received many comments asking why this project wasn't done years ago. This project was overdue to celebrate the many accomplishments of these identity caucuses and committees, some of whom have been around for well over forty years.  The general response has been positive in that members of the caucuses are glad to be able to participate in the telling of their own stories and to have access to some of the materials held in the archives.

 

What remains to be done on this project?  What is the committee’s ultimate hope/dream for the project?
WWC: We have several more books planned, focused on individual SIGs/Caucuses, and the online web presence is still being developed. For the project to be successful it should spark a consistent attention to these organizations, both in terms of insuring they have the resources to thrive, but also that our field continue to study their importance in shaping our classrooms, our pedagogy, and our future leaders.

 

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