Confronting oppressive language in our tutoring practice: Some guiding thoughts

By Roniksha Kumar

Vol. 2, No. 5. (Winter 2021)

Roniksha Kumar is an undergraduate student and a Peer Tutor at the University of Waterloo. As an aspiring educator, she is committed to learning and applying Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion practices in her work and everyday life.

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”

Black History Month: Black-Authored Resources for Writing Centres

Vol. 2, No. 4 (Winter 2021)

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. 

#BlackHistoryMonth in Canada
Black History Month began as a week-long celebration in February 1926. Its founder, Carter G. Woodson, was inspired in 1915 by a three week long event that was sponsored by the state of Illinois to mark the fiftieth anniversary of emancipation. Speaking to an audience of students at Hampton Institute, Woodson said: “We are going back to that beautiful history and it is going to inspire us to greater achievements.” From its very beginnings, Black History Month has provided a necessary push for educators to intentionally seek out and amplify the work of Black writers, and to recognize the contributions that Black people have made to every facet of our society. The Association for the Study of African American Life and History has a detailed article about the history of Black History Month itself and the Black leaders who envisioned it and worked for its creation and continuation. 

Black History Month was not officially recognized in Canada until the late 1970s. It was established in Canada, as in the US, through significant Black effort and leadership. In 1978, Dr. Daniel Hill, Donna Hill, Wilson Brooks, Joan Kazmarski, Lorraine Hubbard, and others co-founded the Ontario Black History Society and petitioned to have Black History Month recognized in February. The first official Black History Month in Canada was recognized in Toronto in 1979. You can learn more about Black History Month in Canada through the Ontario Black History Society website. 

We invite you to read on, during Black History Month and beyond. To paraphrase Chantal Gibson, Otoniya J. Okot Bitek, and Ebony Magnus in their recent discussion of their poetry/photography exhibition un/settled, these works are good every other month, too.

Resources
All of the following resources have been authored or co-authored by Black writers, thinkers, scholars, and educators. We would love to see this, admittedly incomplete, list grow! Please submit your recommendations for additional resources herehttps://forms.gle/CLvjJUbd4xvfwpjM9

Azard, M. G. (2017). “Beyond Johnny can’t write: Tracing the identification of basic writers as deficient, disabled, and foreign others in developmental composition textbooks.” (Doctoral dissertation, The Graduate School of the Texas Woman’s University, Denton, Texas). https://twu-ir.tdl.org/handle/11274/9913 

Baéz, K. & Ore, E. (2018). “The moral imperative of race for rhetorical studies: On civility and walking-in-white in academe.” Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies Special Forum, 15(4), 1-6.

Baird, P. (2021). “Honoring languages: Review of Creole composition: academic writing in the Anglophone Caribbean.” Writers: Craft & Context, 2(1), pp. 59-67. https://journals.shareok.org/writersccjournal/article/view/35/17

Baker-Bell, A. (2020). Linguistic justice: Black language, literacy, identity, and pedagogy. London: Routledge. 

Baker-Bell, A., Williams-Farrier, B. J., Jackson, D., Johnson, L., Kynard, C., & McMurtry, T. (2020). This Ain’t Another Statement! This is a DEMAND for Black Linguistic Justice! Conference on College Composition and Communication. cccc.ncte.org/cccc/demand-for-black-linguistic-justice

Black Canadian Studies Association. (2021). “Statement regarding 2021 Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences.” Twitter. https://twitter.com/blkcdnsa/status/1359136941346816006?s=21

Bonilla-Silva, E. (2010). Racism without racists: Colour-blind racism and the persistence of racial inequality in the United States. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield. 

Coenen, H., Folarin, F., Tinsley, N., & Wright, L. (2019). “Talking justice: The role of anti-racism in the writing center. Praxis: A Writing Center Journal, 16(2), 12-19. http://www.praxisuwc.com/162-coenen-et-al

Condon, F. , & Green, N.-A. (2020). Letters on moving from ally to accomplice: Anti-racism and the teaching of writing. In Diverse Approaches to Teaching, Learning, and Writing Across the Curriculum: IWAC at 25. WAC Clearinghouse/University Press of Colorado.

Condon, F., & Young, V. A. (Eds.). (2016). Performing antiracist pedagogy in rhetoric, writing, and communication. The WAC Clearinghouse; University Press of Colorado. https://doi.org/10.37514/ATD-B.2016.0933

Conversations from the Margins. (N.D.). Racism in the Margins. University of Connecticut. https://ritm.initiative.uconn.edu/narratives/ 

(Video where tutors of colour speak about their experiences with racism in response to their writing) 

Cook, N. A. (2020)  Anti-racism resources for all ages, Padlet. compiled by Dr. Nicole A. Cook: https://padlet.com/nicolethelibrarian/nbasekqoazt336co 

Cooks, J. & Sunseri, A. (2014). Leveling the playing field: The efficacy of thinking maps on English language learner student’s writing. The CATESOL Journal, 25(1), 24-40.

Craig, Todd. (2015). “‘Makin’ Somethin’ Outta Little-to-Nufin’: Racism, Revision and Rotating Records – The Hip-Hop DJ in Composition Praxis.” Changing English, 22(4), 349-364. https://doi.org/10.1080/1358684X.2015.1109833

Dei, G.J.S. (1996). Anti-racism education: theory and practice. Halifax: Fernwood Publishing. 

Dei, G. J. S., James, I. M., Karumanchery, L. L., James-Wilson, S., & Zine, J. (2000). Removing the margins: The challenges and possibilities of inclusive schooling. Toronto: Canadian Scholars’ Press. 

Dei, G. J. S., Karumanchery, L. L., & Karumanchery-Luik, N. (2004). Playing the race card: Exposing white power and privilege. New York: Peter Lang.

Dei, G. J. S., Zine, J., & James-Wilson, S. V. (2002). Inclusive schooling: a teacher’s companion to removing the margins. Toronto: Canadian Scholars’ Press.

Esters, J. B. (2011). “On the edges: Black maleness, degrees of racism, and community on the boundaries of the writing center.” In L. Greenfield & K. Rowan (Eds.), Writing centers and the new racism: A call for sustainable dialogue and change (pp. 290-299). Logan: Utah State University Press.

Faison, W. (2019). “Writing as a practice of freedom: HBCU writing centers as sites of liberatory practice. Praxis: A Writing Center Journal, 16(2), 53-64.

Faison, W., et al. (2019). “Potential for and barriers to actionable antiracism in the writing center: Views from the IWCA Special Interest Group on Antiracism Activism.” Praxis: A Writing Center Journal, 16(2), 4-11. http://www.praxisuwc.com/162-faison-et-al

Green, N-A. (2018). Moving beyond alright: And the emotional toll of this, my life matters too, in the writing center work. The Writing Center Journal, 37(1), 15-34.

hooks, bell. (2013). Writing beyond race: Living theory and practice. London: Routledge.

Horner, B., Lu, M-Z., Royster, J. J., Trimbur, J. (2011). “Language difference in writing: Toward a translingual approach.” College English, 73(3), 303-321.

Hudson, D. J. (2017). “The whiteness of practicality.” In Schlesselman-Tarango, G. (Ed). Topographies of whiteness: Mapping whiteness in library and information studies (pp. 203-234). Sacramento: Library Juice Press.

Jackson, K. K. & Howard, M. (2019). “MSIs matter: Recognizing writing center work at minority serving institutions.” Praxis: A Writing Center Journal, 16(2), 51-52.

Johnson, M. T. (2011). “Racial literacy and the writing center.” In L. Greenfield & K. Rowan (Eds.), Writing centers and the new racism: A call for sustainable dialogue and change (pp. 211-227). Logan: Utah State University Press.

Jones, W. (1993). Basic writing: Pushing against racism. Journal of Basic Writing, 12(1), 72-80.

Lockett, A. (2019). “Why I call it the academic ghetto: A critical examination of race, place, and writing centers.” Praxis: A Writing Center Journal, 16(2), 20-33. https://repositories.lib.utexas.edu/bitstream/handle/2152/75575/16.2%20Lockett%20PDF.pdf?sequence=2&isAllowed=y

Mitchell, K. (2019). “Liminally speaking: Pathos-driven approaches in an HBCU writing center as a way forward.” Praxis: A Writing Center Journal, 16(2), 75-81. http://www.praxisuwc.com/162-mitchell-1

Morrison, T. H. (2018). Nooses and balancing acts: Reflections and advice on racism and antiracism from Black writing tutors at predominantly white institutions. [Doctoral Dissertation]. Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana. https://docs.lib.purdue.edu/dissertations/AAI10788542/

Perryman-Clark, S., Kirkland, D. E., & Jackson, A. (2014). Students’ right to their own language: A critical sourcebook. Bedford/St.Martin’s. 

Royster, J. J. (1996). When the first voice you hear is not your own. College Composition and Communication, 47(1), 29-40. 

Suhr-Sytsma, M., & Brown, S. E. (2011). Theory in/to practice: Addressing the everyday language of oppression in the writing center. The Writing Center Journal, 31(2), 13-49.

Teachers College Reading & Writing Project. (2021). Teach Black history: Not just in February but all year. The Reading and Writing Project, Teachers College Columbia University. https://readingandwritingproject.org/blog/teach-black-history-not-just-in-february-but-all-year

Villanueva, V. & Smitherman, G. (Eds). (2003). Language diversity in the classroom: From intention to practice. Southern Illinois University Press. 

Walton, R., Moore, K. R., & Jones, N. N. (2019). Technical communication after the social justice turn: Building coalitions for action. New York: Routledge.

Young, V.A. (2011). “Should writers use they own English?” In Greenfield, L. & Rowan, K. (Eds). Writing centers and the new racism (pp. 61-72). Utah State University Press.

Much of the Black Writing Centre scholarship has emerged from the US context. The following are powerful pieces of Black Canadian writing that engage with the experience of Black people in Canada:  

Cole, D. (2020). The skin we are in: A year of Black resistance and power. Toronto: Doubleday Canada. 

Maynard, R. (2017). Policing Black lives: State violence in Canada from slavery to the present. Halifax, Winnipeg: Fernwood Press. 

Walcott, R. & Abdillahi, I. (2019). BlackLife: Post-BLM and the struggle for freedom. Winnipeg, Manitoba: Arbeiter Ring Publishing.

This post was written and compiled by members of the BC Writing Centre Association, regional affiliate of the CWCA/ACCR, as part of our stated commitment to antiracism. In particular, this work addresses two of our public commitments: 

  • Creating opportunities to learn from our communities about their experiences of injustice, especially as these pertain to the intersections of race and academic expectations. 
  • Critically evaluating our resources in an ongoing way to ensure antiracist, decolonial, and Indigenized approaches and content. 

You can read our statement of commitment to antiracism here

Announcement || CWCA/ACCR 2021 Conference CfP – Transformative Inclusivity: Social Justice and Writing Centres

8th CWCA/ACCR Conference

CWCA 2020 logo

Transformative Inclusivity:
Social Justice and Writing Centres


May 17 – 21, 2021

Virtual Conference


“[A] culture of access is a culture of participation and redesign”
–Elizabeth Brewer, Cynthia L. Selfe, and M. Remi Yergeau


Conference Context

For our 2021 conference, the Canadian Writing Centres Association / association canadienne des centres de rédaction welcomes proposals on any writing centre-related subject, but particularly proposals that consider and/or critique frameworks of inclusion, access, and accessibility. These themes may be related to anti-racist work and Indigenization at writing centres, to our recent experiences arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as to writing and writing centre theory, pedagogy, praxis, programming, administration, research, physical and online environments, advocacy, or activism.

Writing centres have committed to making their spaces and services accessible, inclusive, and democratic, not least to students and tutors from marginalized backgrounds (Geller et al., 2007; Greenfield & Rowan, 2011; Hitt, 2012; Lang, 2017; Martini & Webster, 2017). Even as COVID-19 has inflected, sharpened, and foregrounded systemic inequities, the Black Lives Matter movement, Indigenous movements for social justice such as 1492 Land Back Lane and Idle No More, and the Disability Rights Movement have called upon us, with greater urgency than ever before, to expand the definition and the scope of access, and revitalize writing centres as social justice projects. Continue reading “Announcement || CWCA/ACCR 2021 Conference CfP – Transformative Inclusivity: Social Justice and Writing Centres”