Brown Girls Dreaming: Adolescent Black Girls’ Futuremaking—LEARN Marginal Syllabus

March 01, 2021
By Educator Innovator

“…(W)e find it appropriate to deem Tamika and Malia both dreamers and visionaries, recognizing the criticality, creativity, and multimodal literacy skills that Black adolescent girls must have to make futures that resist deficit images of Black women and girls.”

Our March reading for LEARN: Marginal Syllabus describes the career dreams and future goals of Tamika and Malia. Authors Jennifer Turner and Autumn Griffin, two Black woman literacy scholars who learned alongside Tamika and Malia over a six-year period, describe Tamika and Malia as visionaries through an analysis of their critical, multimodal literacies. This article details how Turner and Griffin engaged Tamika and Malia as futuremakers—through creative design activities that included dream boards, digital collages, and playlists—so as to open, and deepen, affirming and aspirational conversations about what it means to be young, Black, and female in America.

This is the first month’s reading from the LEARN Marginal Syllabus, Spring 2021 co-developed with the National Writing Project (NWP) and the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) with support from Hypothesis. Each month, March through June, we invite educators to collaboratively read and discuss an article published by NCTE that investigates the intersection of literacy and equity. Each reading with related author discussion will go “live” on the first Monday of the month.

This month’s reading and author discussion

Click on the article link to read and annotate:

Brown Girls Dreaming: Adolescent Black Girls’ Futuremaking through Multimodal Representations of Race, Gender, and Career Aspirations

This month, we invite you to read about the career visions of Tamika and Malia, the participants in a study about future aspirations and life literacies. As both learners and visionaries, the girls created multiple visual artifacts over the course of several years to (re)imagine their futures. They first drew pictures of their career dreams in 2012 when working with Turner at a summer workshop. They also created digital dream boards and music playlists with both Turner and Griffin in 2018. These various multimodal compositions allowed Turner and Griffin to discuss career paths and evolving visions of the future with Tamika and Malia over time. This article analyzes and shares themes related to Black girls’ multiliteracies that surfaced through conversation about the digital artifacts. It also offers a powerful and hopeful counternarrative to the delimited futures American society often projects onto Black girls; that is, by either depicting them in media as illiterate, or by asserting that they will compromise aspirations to serve their families. Inspired by Jacqueline Woodson’s memoir “Brown Girls Dreaming,” Turner and Griffin call on English teachers to see Black girls as visionaries while also centering their creative dreams and aspirational literacies in the classroom.

Join the Conversation

We invite you to:

Why Annotate?

Reflecting on her experiences with the Marginal Syllabus, Michelle King of the Western Pennsylvania Writing Project, has written that “to annotate is to observe, remark, and/or note down. [It is] an act of love because of one’s commitment to stay in relationship with the creator and other readers and observers.” This infographic she created is available as a PDF download to support others in thinking through the question of why annotate together.

Social annotation is a form of digital dialogue. Through social annotation texts become discursive contexts. Digital resources, like Marginal Syllabus articles, are marked up to share information, enable collaboration, and produce new knowledge. The Marginal Syllabus leverages social annotation for justice-directed dialogue in literacy education. By facilitating group reading and social annotation, the Marginal Syllabus provides public and beneficial opportunities for educators’ literacy learning as “annotation can function as both a literary device and means of social inquiry for educators writing to advance their equity-oriented professional learning” (see Remi Kalir’s recent article in English Journal).

How to Annotate:

Here is a quick walk through of how to reach the article and annotations: