- Valuing Youth Voices and Differences through Community Literacy Projects:Review of Detroit Future Youth Curriculum Mixtape
Freeing Ourselves: A Guide to Health and Self-Love for Brown Bois
When viewed together, the two community-based publications reviewed here—Detroit Future Youth Curriculum Mixtape and Freeing Ourselves: A Guide to Health and Self Love for Brown Bois—offer practitioners working within contexts that bridge academic and local community locations invaluable pedagogical materials and resources for imagining and practicing community literacy partnerships. These new forms of partnership complicate understandings of racialized, classed, sexualized, and gendered differences by valuing youth and working to make them legible as holders and creators of knowledge—as the experts on their own lived experiences.
In Community Literacy and the Rhetoric of Public Engagement (2008), Linda Flower defines community literacy as "a rhetorical practice for inquiry and social change." She asserts a vision of community engagement through which practitioners—across academic and local community contexts—work to practice ways of knowing that challenge and reimagine lived experiences of difference and inequality as they articulate with multiple ways of performing identities (Flower 221). In her work, Flower understands community literacy as a space for practicing community (broadly defined) as "public dialogue across differences of culture, class, discourse, race, gender, and power shaped by the explicit goals of discovery and change" (261-65). Yet, I want to extend Flower's articulation of community, literacy, and difference by acknowledging that working across difference
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is sometimes less transformative than working with difference; in these cases, the goal is not to elide or smooth over difference, but to engage with difference as a necessary and radical component of grassroots social transformation. As Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick argues in Epistemology of the Closet, "People are different from each other" (22); working to recognize and understand difference as necessary and valuable should be central to the goals of radical and sustainable community literacy projects, like those reviewed here.
Conceived as a collaborative, social justice venture among youth and adult allies working with community organizations in Detroit, Detroit Future Youth Curriculum Mixtape is an assemblage of community-authored literacy workshops rooted in a place-based understanding of youth who encounter daily not only Detroit's social inequalities, but also the stereotypical narratives that circulate about Detroit youth and their particular urban location. Detroit Future Youth, an organization that works to build and strengthen youth coalition in Detroit, advocates multimedia literacy and production as particularly effective ways for youth and adult allies to challenge and revision the larger, deficit-driven narratives of youth—particularly youth of color—that circulate through dominant media channels. As such, the Detroit Future Youth Curriculum Mixtape print curriculum is accompanied by a flash drive compilation of lesson-plan resources and youth-produced media. In light of a recent report from the Pew Research Center showing that youth living in lower socioeconomic conditions are outpacing their economically wealthier counterparts in terms of mobile access to Internet and social media, it is apparent that media literacy and production hold the potential for youth-driven social change at the grassroots level (2).
Across the Detroit Future Youth Curriculum Mixtape, the editors identify three relational "layers of impact": "Personal impact," in which youth and adult allies take the materials offered in the curriculum and modify them within the context-specific locations of their communities; "Community impact," in which the curriculum practiced within and across communities facilitates and sustains conversation and coalition; and "Social change impact," in which youth and adult allies engage the curriculum as a way of performing a more just and equitable future within the experience of present realities (8). While detailing the 13 workshop lesson plans offered within the Curriculum Mixtape is beyond the scope of this review, a snapshot of the kinds of pedagogical activities offered in the collected materials illustrates their potential for use in a variety of community literacy contexts. For example, Young Nation, a grassroots youth organization in south Detroit, describes a workshop focused on identifying topics of interest to youth, connecting these topics to place-specific lived realities, and working with youth to transform...