This post is from the 2022 CWCA/ACCR annual conference virtual poster session. – Stevie Bell and Brian Hotson, 2022 CWCA/ACCR conference co-chairs
By Julia Lane, Simon Fraser University
If you want to write in an inclusive and antiracist way, you have to pay attention to the perspectives, peoples, and groups that might be excluded and even harmed through your writing, even if unintentionally.
Question Assumptions. Part of the power of inclusive and antiracist writing is that it prompts us to shine a light on our assumptions–even ones we’ve never noticed before.
Choose words thoughtfully & carefully. As you question assumptions, you bring new attention to the words you use. Words have power and no two words mean precisely the same thing!
Revise critically. Like all writing, inclusive and antiracist writing benefits from revisions! Seek feedback from those whose experiences differ from yours.
Learn from feedback. When you get critical feedback treat it as a chance to learn and grow. Mistakes are not an excuse to give up or back away from the work.
Vol. 3, No. 5 (Spring 2022)
I recently interviewed with Casey Wong who is the keynote speaker for the 2022 CWCA/ACCR conference. Wong (he/him) is currently an Assistant Professor of Social Foundations of Education in the Department of Educational Policy Studies at Georgia State University. He is co-editing a forthcoming book, Freedom Moves: Hip Hop Knowledges, Pedagogies, and Futures?, with H. Samy Alim and Jeff Chang.
Thank you for taking the time for to speak with me.
Wong: Thank you! I’m excited about entering into community with you and the CWCA/ACCR attendees.
First off, I’m interested in how you got to where you are now. What was your path to your PhD and UCLA?
Wong: I love this question, and I imagine I could begin academically, but I might start with my upbringing. When I’m thinking about the power of language and rhetorics, I think about all I witnessed growing up in communities in Southern California that were some of the poorest by size in the country. I saw a variety of literacies spraypainted across train cars that actively passed through one of my central places of upbringing, Colton, California. I consider how I grew up among interconnected and overlapping peoples from the African/Black, Latinx, Asian, and Pacific Islander diasporas. I consider how local Native peoples were actively involved in my elementary school in San Bernardino, California. I think about how White supremacy often found its way into the voices and lives of my poor and working-class White peers, but how often there were deep co-conspiracies and solidarities that went unnoticed. With so many peoples, from so many places, it made having access to multiple varieties of language a deep advantage, and their value, and beauty–even as Dominant American English was widely seen as the ideological norm in very oppressive ways. I saw this personally as my Cantonese father secretly refused to let us know he spoke Cantonese, nor let us learn–something myself, my brother and sister would not find out until he passed away while we were in high school. Continue reading “Colonial outposts in the 36th chamber: Hip hop pedagogies and writing centres”→
The CWCA/ACCR Statement of Commitment to Antiracism is a living and active document. It will guide and inform the Board and its committees in all activities, such as strategic planning, conference organizing, resource creation, and membership recruitment. Following the statement’s publication on our website today in January 2022, the Board and the BIPOC Caucus will work together to implement an action plan and measures for tracking progress, for updating and revising the statement, and for supporting individual members and member schools in doing this critical work.
The Statement of Commitment to Antiracism is the result of significant cooperation and collaboration by various individuals and groups within CWCA/ACCR. The Statement was originally crafted out of a similar statement by the British Columbia Writing Centres Association (BCWCA). It was composed and revised over a period of approximately 12 months from January to December 2021, engaging Board members and general members of the organization.
Following the draft shared with members at the 2021 Annual General Meeting, racialized members of CWCA/ACCR formed the BIPOC Caucus and undertook the task of revising the Statement to make it more inclusive and to recognize the different roles that members have in doing this work. Their work has been instrumental, and CWCA/ACCR is indebted to these members for their commitment, vision, and labour. As a result of their work, the published Statement is more fully representative of our organization, and it details CWCA/ACCR’s commitments to and responsibilities for fostering and supporting antiracism in our organization and in member writing centres.
The CWCA/ACCR Statement of Commitment to Antiracism is the lens that will filter and focus all activities of our organization now and in the future. It reminds us that writing centre work is never neutral; that language is never standard; and that our practices of teaching, tutoring, and coaching must be equitable and informed by antiracism theories and practices to be effective. It impels us to examine our organizational culture, our membership, and our leadership, and to make intentional and sustaining changes to our systems and processes, and to our mentorship and leadership pathways.
I invite you to read the Statement of Commitment to Antiracism and consider how you can help move it from text to action:
What elements of this statement resonate with you?
As a current or future member of CWCA/ACCR, how can you participate in this work in your own writing centre/writing program? In your institution? In your teaching or research? In any of the initiatives or action items in the statement?
What support do you need from CWCA/ACCR to engage in antiracist research or practice?
What can you contribute to CWCA/ACCR’s efforts to transform this statement into action?
Please contact me if you wish to share your ideas, your interests, or your personal commitment. I look forward to joining with all our members in conversations about antiracism in CWCA/ACCR and in our member writing centres at the 2022 conference.
Kimberly Le, Writing Center Consultant, Seattle University
Finola Schmahl-Waggoner, Writing Center Consultant, Seattle University
We would like to begin by introducing ourselves and giving a little background on how we came to be writing center consultants and how we came to join the first Canadian Writing Centres Association/association canadienne des centres de rédaction (CWCA/ACCR) Anti-racist Reading Circle.
Finola Schmahl-Waggoner My name is Fin, and I am a third-year undergraduate at Seattle University, majoring in cell and molecular biology with a minor in international studies. I visited the writing centerduring the fall quarter of my freshman year, 2019. My consultant had been so helpful and kind to me that I was inspired to join the center, and I applied a couple of months later for the position. I received and accepted an offer in spring of 2020 to work at the center, and I enrolled in ENGL 3090, our tutor writing course required for training. While we transitioned online, I learned a lot from our writing center director, Dr. Hidy Basta, about decolonizing the writing process and how to assist clients while also accepting and inviting in multiple ways of thinking, processing, and writing. I worked as a writing consultant online for the last academic year, 2020-2021 and applied to return in the summer of 2021. When Dr. Hidy Basta sent Kimberly and me the offer to join the CWCA/ACCR Reading Circle, we agreed excitedly and started reading Felicia Rose Chavez’s The Anti-Racist Writing Workshop: How To Decolonize the Creative Classroom (2021), which is how I ended up at the reading circle this past summer.
Kimberly Le I am Kimberly, a fourth-year undergraduate at Seattle University, majoring in theatre with a double minor in ethics and psychology. I started out early in my freshman year helping my friends look over their papers and making comments, suggestions, edits, and most importantly, asking questions. Being that we were fresh into college with little in our pockets, most of my friends had joked that they wished they could pay me. And when my friends and I found out that the writing center was accepting applications, they urged me to throw my hat into the ring. Just like Fin, I was offered a position and enrolled in the required class. I can confidently say that what I thought it meant to be a writing tutor has completely changed for the better, thanks to the writing center. And it is because of this team that opportunities like joining a reading circle across the border became possible!
Fin and I were among a handful of CWCA/ACCR Reading Circle participants who were student writing consultants/tutors. The rest of the participants were writing center directors and staff. Getting to read The Anti-Racist Writing Workshop: How to Decolonize the Creative Classroom (2021) and sharing our thoughts and ideas with others was one of the best decisions we made during our time working at the writing center. Students in a predominately white institute (PWI) are racing to achieve a standard built upon inaccessibility for non-white students. This is why Chavez’s book is important. The work of affirming and recognizing students and professors of color is not only essential for white individuals to develop empathy and compassion and become advocates, but also because people of color endure adversity daily and deserve safe and supportive spaces. As radical as it may sound, if we could require all in academia to read this book, we would do so in a heartbeat. We cannot stress the impact and importance that this book has had on our confidence, challenging authority and believing in our capability to make change.
The CWCA/ACCR Reading Circle Writing centers are on a journey for change and growth, seeking an inclusive and actively anti-racist vision. Chavez’s book is both autobiography and manifesto, as Chavez navigates the classroom as a Latine woman, educator, wife, mother, and disrupter. Throughout the book, Chavez remains humble and hopeful for her audience and classrooms of future change-bringers and writers/artists. Perhaps the most refreshing aspect of Chavez’s book is her ability to converse with the reader through text and, more importantly, to provoke questions for readers to continue their own reflective journeys into being anti-racist. Chavez has contributed much to the conversation of anti-racism as it is realized in today’s society. Chavez’s work has permeated conversations in academic circles/spaces, prompting inspiration for collaborative book clubs and workshops that honor her brilliant, present-thinking philosophy for English-centered departments, including writing centers.
During the summer of 2021, member writing centers wanted to reflect on the implications for their services and practices with support from their professional organization, the Canadian Writing Centres Association/association canadienne des centres de rédaction. This form of reflection manifested into a reading circle. Despite the association’s location the invitation was extended beyond Canada, and the Seattle University Writing Center (where we are currently writing this from) was eager to participate. During these monthly meetings, members from across writing centers engaged in hour-long conversations regarding assigned chapters and the ideas that resulted from reading Chavez’s words. The meetings led up to a special Q&A session with Chavez herself, inviting members to further their understanding of decolonization in their classrooms, whether student or professor, camera on or off.
The text The Anti-Racist Writing Workshop takes the reader on a step-by-step, chapter-by-chapter journey into Chavez’s process to create a curriculum to support antiracist writing workshops. Not only is every chapter supplemented with rich insight on what it means to respect your students as people and writers, Chavez’s writing is both anecdotal and inspiring. Every chapter includes questions and exercises that Chavez uses to compel the reader to consider their own practices―How might we ground ourselves? How can we work towards anti-oppression in our classrooms? And, for our purpose as writing centers, what are the writing center’s expectations versus the actual services provided to students? What do students want versus what professors assume is necessary for students to learn? The power dynamics between students and professors is a major theme in Chavez’s story, and she invites the reader to walk in her shoes as she experiences both roles in the classroom. Throughout the book, Chavez is honest and real about owning her style of teaching and learning, even as it conflicts with the institution.
Anti-racist work in Seattle University’s writing center As a writing center consultant at Seattle University, it was not until reading Chavez’s book that I (Kimberly) realized the importance of having conversations surrounding writing practice. Conversations about decolonizing the writing center are incredibly difficult and necessary both because the change is much-needed and because writing centers face challenges working [against universities’ misconceptions] universities. The writing center is often stereotyped by those outside of its staff and faculty as being a place to ‘fix’ writing, help with achieving an ‘acceptable’ grade, or even a place that can edit students’ work to make it sound more ‘academic’―code for sounding more in line with traditional, white-supremacist standards of academic writing, grammar, and structure. These are all difficult expectations to manage when we are trying to make change. We are here to engage students in enriching conversations about their writing and the writing process itself and to collectively heal from harmful patterns taught in academic classrooms with the ultimate goal of changing those patterns. In referencing Felicia Rose Chavez, taking up antiracist writing practices means incorporating flexibility, kindness, and recognizing multiple Englishes, and an approach that treats everyone as an individual with gifts to offer to and in writing. We suggest that by taking up these approaches that writing centers can become places that work to change existing white supremacist patterns in academia.
To assist in the process of change, we work by centering clients’ concerns and ideas, helping change the thought process of right and wrong, especially in reference to grammar. Instead of stating that a grammatical error or issue is incorrect, we say that it does not match the expected convention of the paper, and encourage the use of other Englishes, other languages and literacies of grammars, and playing with conventional narratives to create one’s own voice (confidence) in the paper. Personally, I (Fin) have found that many students are a bit confused when we use the word convention instead of rule in the writing centre, and I have had a handful of conversations explaining the reason the writing center uses convention. This involves explaining our work to deconstruct white, academic English by recognizing not only the multitude of forms English takes, but that there are multiple Englishes and thus multiple grammars. While a little confused at the beginning, students tend to appreciate the explanation and are even fired up by the discussion to change the way they approach writing in a way that suits their own style, not the English pushed upon them. We also have posted links to anti-racist resources, academic resources, and services for mental health provided through other areas at Seattle University on our website alongside our tutoring and services for writing.
Finally, we provide a service for faculty to send in their assignment writing prompts. The consultants read over the prompts and give feedback on what they may find confusing or difficult and suggest how to improve the assignment. We are not perfect by any means, but we are making steps forward in dismantling harmful patterns and encouraging an atmosphere full of respect for different perspectives, room for everyone’s writing and voice, and removing the idea of good or bad writing that is dependent on the proximity to a Standardized English.
Moving forward as undergrads, working toward post-grad plans and aspirations, we take from The Anti-Racist Writing Workshop the impacts of radical change. Our work as writing center tutors extends to what it means to offer a service to our peers―to lend our hands in helping others grow. Not only can we uplift others in their work, but we can do so with a greater awareness of how history has molded us and decide to break free from traditional boundaries to create something entirely new and more applicable to us as a diverse group of people. From Chavez we take this lesson: we do not need to submit to how it has always been done; we can see what happens when we humanize ourselves and never settle for less. Whether we are scientists, artists, lawyers, writers, or reaching for any career ambition, the future of these paths lies within our choices and disrupts the systems of racism ingrained in us.
Kimberly I (Kimberly) am an upcoming graduate of the class of 2022, seeking to enter the field of performance (whether acting or behind the scenes). I do this not only for the pure love of the theatre or to keep the arts alive, but to dismantle the unhealthy, capitalist, and racially charged practices that happen within theatre spaces, which are often ignored, hidden, or romanticized in the public eye. Chavez’s book has inspired me to challenge the tradition of professional and academic theatre wherein growth is not determined by the individual themselves. My work aims to achieve a more holistic space for future artists.
Fin I (Fin) am predicted to graduate in 2023 and plan on pursuing a master’s degree in genomic medicine after graduation. After my master’s, I plan on diving into the personalized medicine field of biology, which means creating medicine targeted for one specific person or group of people based upon their DNA. I want to pursue this field, not only because I’m a nerd and enjoys genetics in general, but also because I want to intervene in the crooked imbalance of medicine prioritizing middle-aged, white, cis men (the traditional makeup of focus groups when testing new medicines) to create medicine more equitably and serve a wider range of people. Chavez’s book has inspired me to create an equitable space in biology and other neighboring STEM fields, to encourage a wider variety of students to bring their own perspectives and lives into the field to change it for the better.
Kimberly and Fin his experience of the CWCA/ACCR Reading Circle has been so enlightening and joyous for us as student tutors, and being able to talk with others who care about the future for generations after us feels amazing. We would like to thank CWCA/ACCR for extending their invitation to the SU writing center to participate. Especially Julia Lane, our editor, who has invited us to write this blog post and has given us her utmost patience and support throughout this writing process. We would also like to thank Hidy Basta, Director of the SU Writing Center, mentor, and friend to all of her staff. Most of all, we’d like to thank Felicia Rose Chavez for taking the time to join the CWCA/ACCR Reading Circle for a Q&A―and especially for being vulnerable in sharing her story and what it takes to be a change-bringer.
Vol 2., No. 10 (Spring 2021) Vidya Natarajan, Writing Program Coordinator, King’s University College & CWCA/ACCR Conference Co-Chair
Her “Moving Beyond Alright” address, delivered at the 2017 IWCA conference in Chicago, was one of the most stirring calls to righteous action that writing centre professionals had ever heard. Neisha-Anne S. Green, carrying the responsibility of being the first Black person to deliver the annual conference keynote in the 34-year history of the IWCA, made a passionate case for “social and civic justice” in writing centres, and the active accompliceship of those in power towards those disenfranchised. In this year of racial reckoning, she has agreed to deliver the opening keynote at CWCA’s 2021 conference, “Transformative Inclusivity.” I could not be more thrilled.
Anti-oppressive writing goes beyond academics—it reflects the writer’s experiences, their colleagues, and those who do not have opportunities to express themselves. Oppression is intersectional, including, but not limited to, the marginalization of race, socioeconomic status, gender, sexuality and disability. A commitment to learn how intersectionalities of oppression present themselves in writing enhances a critical lens to view historic and existing power structures. Continue reading “Confronting oppressive language in our tutoring practice: Some guiding thoughts”→
Canadian writing centre involvement While Canada recognizes Black History Month, as Writing Centre professionals, it is our responsibility to address the gaps in our own education in February and beyond. Furthermore, we must confront the fact that these gaps were created intentionally to exclude learning about Black excellence, both historical and contemporary. It is our work to both name anti-Black racism as a force that has shaped our knowledge and our field, and to take up antiracist practices to re-shape our knowledge and our field.
Many Black writers, thinkers, scholars, and educators have made and are continuing to make significant contributions to Writing Centres, both as places of practice and as spaces for theorizing. We are taking this opportunity to amplify this work and to acknowledge and thank our Black colleagues for their contributions, which have been made in environments that are too often exclusionary, hostile, racist, and traumatic. Continue reading “Black History Month: Black-Authored Resources for Writing Centres”→
While the pivot to a remote environment has created significant disconnection and isolation, it has also opened unexpected and creative possibilities for collaboration. Our boundaries are no longer so firmly institutional or geographical.
Previously, our British Columbia Writing Centres Association’s (BCWCA) “Director’s Day Out” events were planned and hosted by one institution, and often at what was deemed to be a more central geographical location. 2020’s virtual event was necessitated by pandemic restrictions and made possible by our increased familiarity with collaborative writing tools. Continue reading “BCWCA “Director’s Day Out”: Meaningful Collaboration Online”→