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A Critical Reflection on Cultivating New Voices Among Scholars of Color

This post is written by member Lamar Johnson.

lamar-johnsonIn the summer of 2014, I was in Columbia, South Carolina, preparing myself mentally and physically for my move to Cincinnati, Ohio.  I had trepidation about my transition from full-time doctoral candidate and full-time secondary English language arts teacher to assistant professor.  Consumed by an amalgamation of emotions about this new journey I was about to embark upon, I received news that I was selected as a fellow for  Cultivating New Voices among Scholars of Color (CNV)  2014–2016 cohort.

CNV is a dynamic space that is committed to honoring the voices, brilliance, beauty, and humanity of scholars of Color.  Drawing upon my personal experiences, I believe the academy is founded upon eurocentric traditions, values, and assumptions; and, oftentimes, there are not any spaces for Black and Brown faculty to engage in humanizing conversations with a cadre of folks who look like them.  To be clear, it is difficult to create spaces for faculty of Color at predominately White institutions if Black and Brown bodies are absent.  However, CNV provided me the opportunity to build bidirectional relationships with other scholars of Color across institutions.  As such, this kinship has moved beyond professional relationships (i.e., only providing feedback on manuscripts or only discussing information pertaining to fellowships and grants)—our bond is deeper.  We are a family that is connected by cultural, racial, and linguistic heritages that arose from generations of struggle, oppression, and resilience.

As a Black son, a Black brother, and a Black male English educator, I carry my racialized, gendered, and classed experiences into my teaching, research, and service.  In short, my research explores the complex intersections of race, anti-black racism, literacy, language, and education to examine how ELA classrooms can become revolutionary sites for racial justice.  Because my research, teaching, and service reflect critical race work, I am often faced with resistance from faculty, staff, and students, particularly if they lack curiosity and criticality.  With this being said, in the beginning stages of my career as an assistant professor, many days I left work feeling dehumanized. However, being a part of the CNV family provided me with a group of people whom I can call, text, email, and/or video chat with if I need to heal and engage in self-care and self-love. CNV is one of my humanizing homes outside of the academy. In today’s racialized context, self-care and self-love are crucial to our humanization within dehumanizing contexts such as academia.  We have to learn how to remain radical and healthy. Not only did CNV provide me with the language and tools to work within/through/against an oppressive infrastructure but also it affirmed, sustained, and humanized me. In like manner, CNV reminds me that I am enough, and it has helped build my confidence as a scholar. I am forever grateful that a dynamic program such as CNV exists.

Lamar L. Johnson is an assistant professor of English Education at Michigan State University. He is interested in the complex intersections of race, literacy, and education and how ELA classrooms can become sites for racial justice.