story by Claire Miller
How can Black women push back against the instances of racism, sexism, stereotyping and oppression they’ve experienced in their lives, in the media and in society at large?
It can begin with their own words, penned in response to what they’ve encountered and advocating for the changes needed to make life better for Black women.
Associate Professor Gholnecsar (Gholdy) Muhammad and the University of Georgia’s Sherell McArthur (Ph.D. ’14) co-authored “Pens Down, Don’t Shoot: An Analysis of How Black Young Women Use Language to Fight Back,” a study published in Urban Education highlighting the history of Black female writers and investigating how Black women today use their voices to make sense of the difficulties they face.
Three alumni from Black Girls WRITE – Muhammad’s annual summer writing institute that gives young Black girls a space to read, think and write about racial and social injustices – participated in this study. Muhammad and McArthur interviewed the participants and asked them to submit a written piece related to two main research questions: How do young Black women respond to the current state of racism and Black girlhood in the U.S., and in what ways do the participants discuss writing as a tool to resist racism?
“Participants recognized the various microaggressions in their daily social and school experiences, and were aware of the respectability politics surrounding their racialized gender,” Muhammad and McArthur wrote. “These three Black, young women were cognizant that the world often judges Black girls, harshly, in lieu of seeing their intelligence, diversity and ingenuity.”
Participants also explored how they could use their own voices and stories to fight back against the oppression they experience – just as Black female authors like Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Fannie Lou Hamner, Audre Lorde and Angie Thomas have done.
This study’s findings have important implications for school systems, demonstrating why teachers should educate themselves about racial injustices, create anti-racist reading and writing spaces for students and find ways to support young Black girls as they find their own voices.
“Educators (of all races) must strive toward achieving their own racial literacy to create a curriculum and a classroom environment that pushes back against racism and empowers voices that have been made marginalized,” Muhammad and McArthur wrote. “Furthermore, educators need to teach racial literacies in the classroom throughout their curriculum and instruction so that youth can make sense of their own identities and the world around them.”
To read the full article, click here.
About the Researcher
Gholnecsar (Gholdy) Muhammad
Department of Middle and Secondary Education
Associate Professor Gholnecsar (Gholdy) Muhammad serves as director of the college’s Urban Literacy Collaborative and Clinic and has received research funding from the U.S. Department of Education, the National Council of Teachers of English and Georgia State University’s Global Initiatives Grant Program. Her 2019 book, “Cultivating Genius: An Equity Framework for Culturally and Historically Responsive Literacy,” details her Historically Responsive Literacy Framework, a teaching and learning model she developed that honors students’ identities and encourages them to grow academically and personally. Her research, which has been published in Multicultural Perspectives, Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, Equity and Excellence in Education, Educational Studies and other journals, focuses on social and historical foundations of literacy development within Black communities and the writing practices among Black women and girls. In 2010, Muhammad established Black Girls Write, a summer writing institute for middle and high school students based on historical Black literary communities.
Read Her Article
McArthur, S.A., and Muhammad, G.E. “Pens Down, Don’t Shoot: An Analysis of How Black Young Women Use Language to Fight Back.” Urban Education, January 2020. DOI: 10.1177/0042085919893734.