Praisesongs of Place: Spatializing Songwriting and Evoking Stances toward Justice in a Literacy-and-Songwriting Class

Presented by
Alecia Beymer and Vaughn Watson, EdD, Michigan State University (MI)

In this presentation, we consider how in an ongoing 18-month critical ethnography of a literacy-and-songwriting class the spur toward change enacted as youth’s multiliteracy practices galvanizes collective action emphasizing considerations of reciprocity as relational (Fisher, 2007). In attending to ways in which youth enacting multiliteracy practices in an after- school literacy-and-songwriting class at the Renaissance Community Music School compose their city, and therefore embolden spaces/places and time, youth’s literacy activities reflect acts of reciprocity both “enabling and enhancing, at other times constraining and oppressing” (Soja, 2004, p. ix). Moreover these moments appeal to a recognition of what is restricted and a re-envisioning of what is possible is negotiated and built upon by youth’s rendering of social and spatial forces (Compton-Lilly, 2014). As Soja (2004) commented, “If our spaces and places, our human geographies, are socially constructed [...] this means that they can be socially changed, made into something better than they were through collective action” (p. x). Youth’s multiliteracy activities as enacted reciprocal acts asserts a building up of particular spaces and places (Kinloch, 2010). Thus our exploration of navigating how youth make and remake imagined worlds and lived experiences through words and music invites new understandings of well-known locations.


Alecia and Vaughn, thank you for this contribution!  The focus on the locale of Detroit was very interesting for me.  As I understand it, this project has many goals related to empowering youth to find their voices and helping them look around themselves critically and reflectively.  This all seems very valuable, but rather different than what is typically done in the sciences, when we instructors usually force students to write about the specific content we deem important in hopes of furthering their understanding of this content.  I am wondering about the extent to which these approaches may or may not be in conflict.  Is it still empowering to be able to write a song of one's own, even if the topic and key points are largely predetermined?  I'm not sure.  

Sun, 09/24/2017 - 13:39 Permalink