“To be our best selves”: Critical dialogue with girls of color about their experiences in a social justice leadership program

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Date of Original Version



This critical qualitative study explores the affordances of social justice-oriented education that centers youth of color and their desire to engage in complex and nuanced dialogue concerning social and political issues relevant to their lives. In doing so, this paper focuses on the experiences of six high school girls of color participating in a New York City based nonprofit program committed to social justice, activism, and leadership. Specifically, it investigates their participation in a course as they interrogated power, oppression, and privilege at the interpersonal and institutional levels. Guided by the theoretical underpinnings of Critical Race Feminism (CRF) and figured worlds, this study’s findings highlight the necessity of discussions about topics often seen as “taboo” in school spaces. The girls saw the dismissal and/or reluctance to engage with “uncomfortable topics” in schools as an attempt to cover up or shield students from histories and realities that may be harsh but necessary knowledge. The girls also stressed the value of opportunities to share and explore multiple aspects of their identity through the course content and activities. Lastly, the pedagogical practice of taking space and making space allowed girls of color to make sense of their individual and collective experiences.

Publication Title, e.g., Journal

Journal of Curriculum and Pedagogy