Finding space, finding voice: the racial, ethnic, and spiritual identity of African American students in the urban Southwest
In this study, I examined how African American students in a church youth group constructed ethnic and spiritual identities as they engaged with community literacy practices. Arizona's small, scattered population of African Americans is reflected within participants' multi-ethnic schools where they describe feelings of being almost invisible to school agents and peers. Listening to students, I came to deeply understand how they struggled with cultural isolation and racial discrimination. The growing tensions with state immigration reform only magnified those feelings as participants perceived the ban on ethnic studies to be another attempt to exclude them from school curriculums. By using utilizing four identity types, I gained greater insights into participants' negotiation of ethnicity and spirituality. Drawing from critical race theory, I utilized counter-storytelling to not only recapture participants' experiences with social injustice, but also to illustrate how the youth group empowers the students to become activists. Resisting the paralyzing effects of racial stereotypes, participants emerged as essayists, artists, orators, and spoken word poets.