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My Culture, My Color, My Self

Heritage, Resilience, and Community in the Lives of Young Adults

Toby S. Jenkins

Publication Year: 2013

Understanding our cultural heritage and sharing a cultural community's history helps motivate individuals to take agency and create change within their communities. But are today's youth appreciative of their culture, or apathetic towards it?

In her vibrant ethnography My Culture, My Color, My Self, Toby Jenkins provides engrossing, in-depth interviews and poignant snapshots of young adults talking about their lives and culture. She recounts D'Leon's dream to become a positive example for African American men, and Francheska describing how her late mother inspired her appreciation of her Boricua heritage. In these and other portraits, Jenkins considers the role that cultural education and engagement plays in enhancing educational systems, neighborhood programs, and community structures.

My Culture, My Color, My Self also features critical essays that focus on broader themes such as family bonds, education, and religion. Taken together, Jenkins shows how people of color use their culture as both a politic of social survival and a tool for social change.

Published by: Temple University Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-9

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pp. ix-x

What is most special about my professional journey and appreciation of culture is that both were motivated by the imaginative talents of my ancestors—storytellers whose creativity saw neither pen nor paper and whose wonderful cultural talents never entered the doors of a bookstore or the halls of the academy. Instead, they fed generations of young children...

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Prologue: My Culture, My Color, My Self

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pp. 1-9

Nineteen years ago, as a young African American college woman, I began what was to become a significant cultural journey. College came to serve as an extension of a life filled with cultural growth and learning. It was almost impossible to imagine life without the rituals, activities, and values that had come to frame my existence from a very young...

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Introduction: Cultural Leadership: The Audacity in the Ordinary

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pp. 11-17

Lloyd, an African American student who participated in the study that informed this book, saw his culture in the broad sense of a local and national community. He wrote, “It is my hope that I will one day be in a position to further dispel the negative notions by reaching back into my cultural community to pass on cultural lessons and...

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1. There’s No Place like Home: An Ethic of Cultural Love

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pp. 18-32

We often imagine our cultural historians, storytellers, and griots to be elders—those that have lived long lives with deep meaning. But my own, Gen-X story bears witness to the fact that seeds of insight and wisdom do not take very long to grow. Whether the cause is the nurturing sun and rain (family love and encouragement) or toxic...

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2. A Half-Full Glass of Family Bonds

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pp. 33-57

I hope to be a visionary—someone who is driven by dreams and fueled by faith. My professional interests are not merely monetary or rooted in my own ambitions. Instead, I hope to transform others with the fruit of my lips, labor, and love. I am optimistic in every aspect of life and all avenues that I pursue. I want to make history by just following...

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3. A Politic of Survival

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pp. 58-75

As a young man growing up in Danville, Virginia, I found myself trying to figure out why having a family was so important. My mother, Newman Maurice “Nance” Nunnally, was born in Jersey City and was the youngest sibling of three. My mother was named after one of her uncles. But it was hard being a little girl with a man’s name...

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4. Education, Culture, and Freedom

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pp. 76-101

I begin my story with the first man in my life—the man who would come to my tea parties, play Princess Jasmine and Aladdin, and toss around a football: my daddy. Others may know him as the chief of police of National City, Dr. Adolfo Gonzales. To me, he is my daddy, or Pop, or Dad, or DaaaaaaAaaaadd!! His story...

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5. Art, Land, and Spirit

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pp. 102-132

It’s not that I don’t have a history or a connection with the past. It’s that I am in search of my past. When I refer to the past, I mean being completely aware of the history that constructs both you and your cultural identity. I haven’t caught amnesia and forgotten the story and history of my family...

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6. Cultural Heritage Still Matters

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pp. 133-149

I am a Vietnamese American. A naturalized citizen, I was born and spent a short period of my younger years in Vietnam. I left my country at the age of six to move to a place completely new and scary to me. I didn’t know the language, the customs, or the lifestyle. I was a scared child uprooted from the place I called home, desperately wanting to belong...

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7. The House That Struggle Built: A Portrait of Culture

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pp. 150-160

This closing portrait of culture is painted specifically for college educators. It provides a summary image of what all these stories and perspectives come together to tell us as educators. But just as art is not appreciated by only artists, this chapter is open for all to enjoy. Any parent with a student in college, anyone who works...

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pp. 161-162

Art is a crucial part of my existence—as a woman, as an educator, and even as a researcher. Every piece of work that I produce is at some level poetic. And so, rather than write traditional field notes as I conducted this study, I crafted from my notes a spoken poem summarizing the insights that I gained from this...

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Appendix: Research Methods

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pp. 163-169

I used qualitative inquiry for this research study, as it offered an opportunity for deep examination of the multiple dimensions of a very complex human topic. My goal, which was to paint a holistic picture of the concept of culture as described by students, fits well with the qualitative process. D. Krathwohl describes qualitative methods as particularly...


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pp. 171-176


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pp. 177-183


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pp. 185-191

About the Author

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pp. 193-204

E-ISBN-13: 9781439908310
Print-ISBN-13: 9781439908303

Page Count: 204
Publication Year: 2013