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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Black girls speak: Struggling, reimagining, and becoming in schools

  • Author(s): Ross, Kihana Miraya
  • Advisor(s): Nasir, Na'ilah
  • et al.

The current historical moment is marked by extreme forms of racialized violence, antiblackness, and political repression on the one hand, and a surge of highly-energized, highly-visible race-specific forms of political and racialized resistance on the other. Situated within the contradictions, tensions, and possibilities of the times, several exclusively Black counterpublics have emerged in the San Francisco Bay Area in the form of intentional all-Black classes, spatially situated within a larger school. These spaces provide an exceptional opportunity to explore the transformative potential of spaces that eschew theories of a colorblind, post-race society and confront race and racialization directly.

To this end, I utilize BlackCrit (Dumas & ross, 2016), Fraser’s (1990) subaltern counterpublic, and hooks’ (1990) notion of homeplaces and the margin, to theorize about what I call, Black educational sovereign spaces, intentional all-Black counterpublics constructed within the context of multi-racial/ethnic, diverse school settings for the purpose of supporting Black students in racially-specific ways. Drawing on interviews with Black girl students and a Black woman educator, and classroom observations, this study explores one distinct Black educational sovereign space: An all Black, all female, young women’s studies class at a public high school in an urban district in Northern California. This manuscript constructs an ethnographic case study that explores both the ways Black girls are racialized and hypersexualized in schools, and also, the numerous ways their production of Black Girl Space facilitates a reimagining of a Black girl identity, and the development of a radical Black subjectivity. This work contributes a theorization of Black space in education and findings have implications for our understanding of the ways purposefully constructed Black educational sovereign spaces can serve to mitigate students’ racialized experiences and facilitate students’ construction of identities that reimagine problematic notions of blackness that confront them in society and in school.

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