Who Left the Gate Open? African American Rhetorical Tradition as an Effective Gateway for Written and Oral Communication
Many of the sessions have been predominantly women, but this one appears to have a single male in the audience, with an audience of dozens.
Kedra James, The University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, â€œAfrican American English Among First-Year Writing Students at Historically Black Colleges and Universitiesâ€
Bachelorâ€™s in 2005
Masterâ€™s in 2007
Currently a doctoral candidate
Research interests: African American English, composition
Looking at writing programs in HBCUs.
What led me to this topic?
I entered an HBCU, declared English with a journalism emphasis.
Went on to Kansas State University. Began to teach fyc.
Differences in the way I learned to write and KSUâ€™s use of the Toulmin model.
What are the differences at HBCUs and predominantly white colleges? (6 years later, I found time to look at this. Is part of my dissertation)
Have talked with professors and students, have collected essays, need more essays and interviews
As I began researching, looking through articles and books, could not find as much as I expected to find. Nothing about writing programs at HBCUs. Foundational texts mention there is not much discussion about composition and writing programs at HBCUs.
Are predominantly white institutions and HBCUs teaching comp the same way?
What is an HBCU?
HBCU provide access to higher ed during 1800s and early 1900s. Goal was to educate African American students.
Many begun by church groups. African Missionary Church and the Methodist groupâ€¦
Land-grant colleges were given equal access.
Most originally focused on industrial education.
Now they are mostly liberal arts.
AAE (African American English) poses a problem for AA students. 8 students. Case study. Ballister found these students shift from Black English vernacular in speaking to standard English in writing.
Instructors need to re-think what is standard English.
AA adult female studentsâ€¦ Fluent speakers of AAE. Students said they knew they spoke incorrectly and could not write regular English.
How can we be change this negative response?
Author/researcher began to show students the grammatical rules for AAE. Showing how they can use AAE in Academic writing. (Can they?)
AA graduate students â€œhas stripped away much of her much-valued blacknessâ€ and felt like she had â€œbecome a generic scholar.â€
Instructors making students feel neutralized. Identity issues.
How does the voice (and my identity) change in scholastic English?
Stigma is still attached to AAE.
Want to reflect on mission statements of HBCUs and the pedagogy in composition.
Are the mission statements being implemented?
I believe that HBCUs should support students in understanding the significance of AAE. HBCUs are more likely to focus on standard English. Teachers want to help students compensate for the lack of preparedness by teaching standard English.
â€œasking students to give upâ€¦ identityâ€¦ for employmentâ€
What are we asking students to give up? What are we asking students to hide?
Primary research questions:
What should the role of HBCUs in writing be?
What does the writing curriculum look like?
Is the mission statement reflected in fyc?
Students are male and female, enrolled in three HBCUs.
Stillman, 1876, private, 1000 UG
1869 940 students, Mississippi
Tuskegee University, 2194 students
Mission statements should be connected to the pedagogies.
â€œmost effective â€¦ are those tied to the mission statementsâ€
Writing instruction should mirror the goals of the institution.
â€œculturally relevant pedagogyâ€
Mission statements, syllabi, essaysâ€¦ but will talk more about mission statements.
Key words: leadership; idea of service; ethics-integrity, moral, values; social commitment; problem solving; life-long learning
Tuskegee â€œto deepen students knowledge of history and their cultural heritageâ€
What did the instructors have to say about AAE?
We live by the syllabus. Check the syllabus. I am checking the syllabus.
Choose words, grammatical constructions, and writing conventions according to appropriate standard English.
Use standard English, both written and spoken.
Demonstrate proficiency in class, written and spoken.
102- better command of standard English.
Final exam: Will cover grammar, punctuation, and diction problems that have occurred frequently in the student papers.
Common trend is the students are writing about literature.
Have essays from Tuskegee and Stillman. Both first covered fiction, writing about literature.
Does that effect whether AAE is appropriate?
Can they connect with literature?
Trends: family, race, color
Did not find as much AAE in the essays, which takes me back to the syllabiâ€™s statements about standard English. Omission of comma, misuse of semi-colon, lack of apostrophes for possessivesâ€¦ (Those are things that I also find my students missing.)
We should think about these statements on our syllabi.
What should our syllabi say about AAE? Standard English?
As we think about using literature, are our students able to be comfortable with the literature? Can they relate to it?
Looking for ties between mission statements, pedagogies, and assignments.
Bonnie Williams, Michigan State University, East Lansing, â€œCross Cultural Composition: Can the African American Verbal Traditional Enhance Academic Writing?â€ changed to â€œFrom Comparative to Contrastive: African American Verbal Tradition Enhances Academic Writingâ€
Facilitates workshops for TAs and faculty
MLK Endowed Scholarship
Chapter in Listening to Our Elders
Handout (but not enough for everyone)
-perhaps multiple pages
examined 5 features
AVT Comparative Tool:
Soundingâ€”speaker addresses extreme displeasure at an outcome
Signifying/indirectionâ€”read between lines using culture for
(looked at with sounding)
often extreme displeasure
Narrative format, arrangement
Call responseâ€”audience participates by responding to the speaker
Seeks to involve speakers and audience.
Rhetorical questions, delivery
Narrativizingâ€”everyday topic rendered as a story
African tribal culture, plantation tales, then move on to sermons
Revision, invention, delivery
Repetitionâ€”key words and sounds repeated
Compared to delivery, style, arrangement
Introduce these historically both in Greek/Roman and in African tradition
African verbal tradition is recursive.
They use black language practices.
Methods and Procedures;
Tier 1 fyc: base theme race and ethnicity
4 class sessions (1 hr and 15 min)
Students coded and analyzed their own and authorâ€™s works with AVT
Students brought back examples from twitter, Facebook, music videos, etc, with AVT
Student interviews (15-minute small focus groups)â€”interviews were conducted by students
Ladson-Billings â€œculturally relevant pedagogyâ€
Smitherman, 1993 â€œThe Blacker the Berry, The Sweeter the Juice: African American Student Writers and the National Assessment of Educational Progressâ€
–essays with AVT were given higher rating scores
Titled from Contrastive to comparative, because contrastive limits and points up negatives
Translation in only one direction examines AAE in negative light.
Comparative leads to a more positive examination.
Positive AVT was often seen as showing intelligence.
Students made direct associations of AVT with intelligence and academic writing.
â€œStudents who used it had more engaging paperâ€
â€œI liked learning about Call Response in writingâ€
â€œif we could master this, imagine how much better our papers could beâ€
â€œWhen I used sounding, she was like, â€˜Good job!â€™â€
AVT tool to achieve academic success.
AVT seen as better.
â€œbetter to listen toâ€
â€œmore interactive reading and listeningâ€
â€œMade me think, like, wow, Iâ€™ve been writing like an author.â€
â€œI did my analysis paper on AVT and itâ€™s like this really complicated thing.â€
AA students discussing experiences with AVT
2 use signifying/indirection â€œI was saying slick stuff. I was all about indirection. I used it on Facebook. Weâ€™re smart and donâ€™t even know it. Someone said, Why sarcastic? And I said no, it is signifying. I know how to say it.â€
Pedagogical tool for teachers
Positively alters traditional views about academia
African American retention
Identification of AVT can help all students use these abilities.
Writing is not just presenting facts but it has style.
Helps AA students feel as if they belong in the university.
Erica Britt, University of Michigan- Flint, â€œBlack Style in the Public Sphere: An Investigation of Black Modes of Communication in Public Speechâ€
BA, MA from ?
UI at Urbana-Champaign, second masterâ€™s
Developing an oral history database of Flint, Michigan
What are Black modes of communication?
Going to continue with some of these themesâ€¦
How the tradition is embraced by our students
*to explore how Black modes of communication can serve as critical and effective components of public speech
Sociocultural linguistics: Bucholts and Hall 2005
Quantitative sociolinguistic methods (Labov 1972 a and b; Labov 1974)
Research on the indexical and lexical processes that contribute to identity performance (Silverstein 1975; Irvine 2001; Myeters Scotton 1984â€¦_)
Speakers can index broader identities such as ethnicity (AA) or gender (male or female) through linguistic choices. However, linguistic behavior is not fixed to â€œobviousâ€ or pre-assigned social categories.
Identities also emerge based on the momentary needs of an interaction (such as whether the seaker is acting as an interviewer, teacher, etc)
Linguistic cues have not only the power to signal a particular identity, but to both redefine speaker and hearer
How do rhetorical strategies like Black preaching style contribute to ethnic, professional, and political self-presentations?
How does Black preaching fit in with the structuring of a formal event and the broader act of speaking in public between a relatively homogenous group of hearers and a potentially ethnically mixed group of over hearers?
What are the costs and benefits?
DVD recordings of the 2008 State of the Black Union
Yearly forum, initiated in 2000
Moderated by Tavis Smiley
New Orleans, LA
Broadcast on CSpan
Guests include black political figures, academicians, entertainers, college and high school students, and clergy members
2008 theme: â€œReclaiming our Democracy, Deciding Our Futureâ€
State of the Black Union: Structure
Panelists sit on stage facing the audience.
Smiley stands at a podium facing both the audience and the guests.
Cleo Fields, born 1962, lawyer
Sheila Jackson Lee (born 1950), lawyer, current member of Congressional Black Caucus
Eddie Glaude Jr (b. 1968), professor of African American studies and religion at Princeton
Chose these, because they donâ€™t match the main group focus of academicians.
The black church:
AA most likely of all ethnic and racial groups in the US to declare a formal religious affiliation
85% of AA identified themselves as Christian
59% of black adults were associated with black Protestant congregations
Center of education
Refuge from external sources of racism and inequality
Hub for political activism
Historically one of the highest and most visible leadership positions in the black community
Served dual spiritual and social leadership roles
Participate in the sacred-secular continuum of black life where â€œthose closes to the spiritual realm assume priority in social relationshipsâ€
â€œonly those blacks who can perform stunning feats of oral gymnastics become culture heroes and leaders in the communityâ€ (Smitherman, 1977, p. 76)
Preachers and congregants:
Preachersâ€™ linguistic performances become tools for engaging the congregation in a highly interactive religious event
Congregants rely on preaching cues in order to make their churchgoing experience meaningful and memorable
Preaching is connected in specific rhetorical style
Preaching and sermon style
Initial slow rate of deliviery
Manipulation of voice quality to produce gravelly tone
Stammer and hesitations, extensive pausing, alliteration
Treatment of words and phrases as motives that are delivered with rhythm
Expanding or contracting words in order to fit them into metrical units
â€œhitting a lickâ€ or the percussiveness and punctuation of strong consonants
Preaching, membership, stance
speaker is giving a bunch of info, audience is passive, disengaged; no give and take between speaker and audience
â€œThroughout todayâ€™s proceedings, the ushers will be moving throughout the aislesâ€¦ picu up index cardsâ€¦ write a questionâ€¦ we will try to get to those questions near the endâ€¦â€
Lexical and semiotic cues
Event describe as a â€œconferenceâ€ and â€œsymposiumâ€ by the organizer
Panelists are on a raised, lighted platform, while audience members are seated in darkened seats in front of the stage
1: having said that
2: I will be very disappointed and would be ready to fight
3: Because Iâ€™m one of those
4: Th-th-there-there goes that kingian commitment
Sitting in cushy, comfortable chairs
Up and away
We want you to vote your conscience. We just want to use the delibratous space every year to prick that consciences, but we gotta do it with a love languages. Can the church say amen?
Lexical and semiotic cues:
Event begins at church. Starts with a prayer.
Begins with a greeting and comedic narrative
Takes the position that members of legislature should be allowed to support their candidate of choice (as a â€œrightâ€) and they should not receive negative treatment
Shifts to preaching style in climax: alliteration and repetiions, elevated tone
â€œif I was in the caucus, I would just give them my experiences and I would say you knowâ€¦ WEB DuBois started to teach, Rosa Parks could take her seat
And Rosa Parks took her seat
So we could all take a stand
We took a stand so Martin Luther could march
Martin marched so
Jesse Jackson could run
Jesse Jeackson could run
Obama could win
Sheila Jackson Lee:
Uses preaching style, begins with love for community
â€œI am at a point having listened to my brothers and sisters of being full and those of you of the church understand what it is when you are full
it means that there is a experiences that you cannot express, it is when you begin to look at your fellow church member and you see love or you begin to feel the realness of God and let me just say I love you my brothers and sisters
Aud: love you
Then a narrative working in New Orleans during the work after Katrina.
â€œWe are on sacred ground and those of you who can in your mind as I speak get a moment of silence because we are on sacred groundâ€¦â€
â€œI am the national co-chair for Hilary Rodham Clinton. I did not leave my blackness at the door.â€
Eddie Glaude, Jr
Shift to preaching style
Preaching used as he reinforces his message about race
â€œDu Bois has made a philosophical claim to let suffering speechâ€¦â€ Heâ€™s made a political claim to put catastrophe in the centerâ€
(audience is saying Um and Amen)
which the declaration of independence (aud respond) was signed for these folk to say that race doesnâ€™t matter in this moment is to say they donâ€™t want to deal with the hell that black and brown people are catching
Speakers make limited use of AAE syntax and phonology
Preaching style does an extraordinary amount of interactional work for these speakers.
Preaching emerges as speakers display a range of affective and evaluative stances that signal to the audience members where they stand on key issues
For Bonnie, study by Smithermanâ€”framework of study, are you going to expand it? Are you going to look at it over more students? Two classes?
Bonnie: This was a small part of my dissertation research. This was part of a chapter. I have more data collection to do. I did it as a pilot study with my class.
What I found was the opposite in my class from the class as a guest lecturer. (Loud response from audience. Like a roar.)
Would like to commend all of you. Enjoyed all of your papers. Happy to see you doing that.
When it comes to HBCUs, examining mission statements and pedagogies. Consider the fact that composition and writing at HBCUs is the last frontier for rhetoric and composition. As a rhet comp person with HBCU background, rhet and comp are rare to invisible on HBCU campuses. Therefore you have to work with faculty who have never thought about what they are teaching and how.
One of the things I have been struggling withâ€¦ is how to write. More AAs in rhet and comp at HBCUs. At 3 HBCUs I have been the only rhet/comp person and the only one who is interested in it. Might want to look at the attitude of teaching of writing. Rhet/comp people are isolated on the HBCU campuses.
As a rhet/comp person at an HBCU, taught at Howard for 30 years, thrilled to see another generation of researchersâ€¦ loved the direction that you are goingâ€¦ Have a question for you, Bonnie, regarding the writing the students were analyzing and coding. Loved the idea that they were coding and analyzing their own writing, what was the nature of the literature they were analyzing? What was the nature of their writing? You did not give them any direction about the writing?
Bonnie: A month after the class started. â€¦ Students had written their first paper. That was the paper we analyzed. Nature of assignment was a narrative. Nature of assignment would have a good chance of using AVT features. Had them practice finding the AVT features in their narrative writing.
As you continue with the research, you might want to look at other genresâ€¦ Narrative is a good place to start because they were more likely to have used AVT writing. But must be able to transfer it to other modes.
Audience issueâ€”before you were bornâ€”when students wrote for an AA audience, then I saw more of these rhetorical devices from the AA devices. In some cases, I only saw them when a black audience had been assigned, even though I was a black teacher.
Modes can make a difference in whether or not the students integrate AA rhetorical devices.