Dr. April Baker-Bell
Dr. April Baker-Bell is a transdisciplinary teacher-researcher-activist and Associate Professor of Language, Literacy, and English Education in the Department of English and Department of African American and African Studies at Michigan State University. A national leader in conversations on Black Language education, her research interrogates the intersections of Black language and literacies, anti-Black racism, and antiracist pedagogies, and is concerned with antiracist writing, critical media literacies, Black feminist-womanist storytelling, and self-preservation for Black women in academia, with an emphasis on early career Black women.
Baker-Bell’s award-winning book, Linguistic Justice: Black Language, Literacy, Identity, and Pedagogy, brings together theory, research, and practice to dismantle Anti-Black Linguistic Racism (a term Baker-Bell coined) and white linguistic supremacy. The book provides ethnographic snapshots of how Black students navigate and negotiate their linguistic and racial identities across multiple contexts, and it captures what Antiracist Black Language Pedagogy looks like in community with Black youth. Linguistic Justice features a range of multimodal examples and practices through instructional maps, charts, artwork, and stories that reflect the urgent need for antiracist language pedagogies in our current social and political climate.
Baker-Bell is the recipient of many awards and fellowships, including the 2021 Andrew W. Mellon Foundation's New Directions Fellowship, the 2021 Michigan State University's Community Engagement Scholarship Award and the 2021 Distinguished Partnership Award for Community-Engaged Creative Activity, the 2020 NCTE George Orwell Award for Distinguished Contribution to Honesty and Clarity in Public Language, the 2019 Michigan State University Alumni Award for Innovation & Leadership in Teaching and Learning, and the 2018 AERA Language and Social Processes Early Career Scholar Award.
Dr. Carmen Kynard
Dr. Carmen Kynard is the Lillian Radford Chair in Rhetoric and Composition and Professor of English at Texas Christian University. Before TCU, she worked in English and Gender Studies at John Jay College of Criminal Justice as well as English, Urban Education, and Critical Psychology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. She interrogates race, Black feminisms, AfroDigital/African American cultures and languages, and the politics of schooling with an emphasis on composition and literacies studies.
Carmen has taught high school with the New York City public schools/Coalition of Essential Schools, served as a writing program administrator, and worked as a teacher educator. She has led numerous professional development projects on language, literacy, and learning and has published in Harvard Educational Review, Changing English, College Composition and Communication, College English, Computers and Composition, Reading Research Quarterly, Literacy and Composition Studies and more. Her award-winning book, Vernacular Insurrections: Race, Black Protest, and the New Century in Composition-Literacy Studies makes Black Freedom a 21st century literacy movement.
Carmen's current projects focus on young Black women in college, Black Feminist/Afrofuturist digital vernaculars, and AfroDigital Humanities learning. She now co-edits the inaugural journal run of Rhetoric, Politics, and Culture and maintains numerous web projects including: blackfeministpedagogies.com, funkdafied.org, and digirhetorics.org (click here for more about her digital projects).
Carmen traces her research and teaching at her website, “Education, Liberation, and Black Radical Traditions” (http://carmenkynard.org) which has garnered over 1.8 million hits since its 2012 inception.
The Assistant Editors
Kashema Hutchinson is a Ph.D. candidate in the Urban Education program at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY). She earned her BA and MA degrees from CUNY. In addition to being a CUNY adjunct lecturer teaching critical thinking to undergraduate and early college students, Kashema is also a Co-Director of the Peers Leadership Fellows Program. Kashema creates and uses Hip Hop infographics to facilitate discussions including, but not limited to the role of women and history; philosophy; behavioral economics; class and crime in traditional and non-traditional educative spaces. Some of these discussions were with groups of incarcerated populations in New York City. Kashema believes that knowledge of self and community (the fifth element of Hip Hop) is the highest level of intelligence. Therefore her work is around highlighting the genius of her community usually through the elements of Hip Hop. In other words, she reps for the culture. Moreover, she is a Co-Director of the Universal Hip Hop Museum's Education Committee. Her dissertation is about mattering in education and beyond through a Hip Hop lens. Her research interests include mattering and marginalization, Hip Hop pedagogy, the socialization of Black girls and women, zero-tolerance policies and mindfulness.
Kashema describes herself as an introvert (although it's hard to tell), born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, and she is extremely judgmental of those who rep the borough. If you didn't live in it when Biggie had everyone rocking D-K, then are you really Brooklyn?
Kaelyn Muiru is a Ph.D. student at Michigan State University. She was born in raised in South Central, Los Angeles, California (R.I.P. Nipsey Hussle) and received her B.A. in English Literature from THEE illustrious Spelman College. Young Dolph is her favorite rapper to listen to when she writes. And she loves sunflowers. When describing her research, Kaelyn has this to say:
My research is about me, while simultaneously centering Black Language and Children’s Literature. My research is about Black Language and its close connection to Black identity. My first year in graduate school was the first time I discovered that Black Language is an actual language,with rules and structure of its own. I immediately became fascinated with it, and I found solace in recognizing and naming the rules of BL. Here I was at 23, discovering that I was bilingual. That discovery was exciting, it truly affirmed and liberated my soul. I noticed a change in myself… I became more confident with both speaking and teaching in my class. And I thought: who could I have been if Black Language was nurtured and acknowledged to me at the age of 7? At the age of 7, my use of “aints” and double negatives were bullied at school and at home. Knowing what I know now, I wonder who that 7-year-old Black girl could have been… If BL was nurtured and taught to her at that age, would she have raised her hand more in class? Would she have more confidence speaking in front of other people? Would she have read more? BL was hardly ever acknowledged in any books I read, which again, signified that it was wrong to use. I don’t remember reading any children’s book that highlighted the beauty of BL… If that 7-year-old Black girl read books that displayed the beauty and power of BL, who could she have been?
Of course some of these questions are rhetorical, but Kaelyn is still interested in the possibility of this: what might rupture when we teach and treat BL as valuable and powerful as it really is?
Toya Mary Okonkwo
Toya Mary Okonkwo is a Ph.D. student in English at Texas Christian university where she has served as a Research Assistant, while also teaching Composition and Literature courses at TCU and the #nationbuilding Paul Quinn College in Dallas, Texas. Her dissertation will be a completely creative project, a play, that focuses on #blackgirlmagic in its many iterations, including elements of magical realism, Black girl storytelling, and a global triangulation of the Atlantic slave trade and its effects on Black girls in the contemporary era. Toya graduated summa cum laude with a double major B.A. in Theatre and Humanities and then her M.A. in English from Midwestern State University – a small liberal arts college that her great-great uncle literally helped build but was barred from attending because of segregation. Toya describes her schooling this way:
For various reasons, I regret not attending an HBCU in my undergraduate, Master’s, or even Ph.D. years – I just keep thinking what an experience it’d have been to have professors and peers who looked like me and implicitly understood Black language skills to use more readily in our research. But, what I won’t ever regret about going to PWIs are the deeply forged relationships I made with fellow sisters who found themselves in the same schools – all of us navigating similar lanes and avenues and understandings of how our Black selves fit into these white worlds ... when in fact we were there to infiltrate and dismantle the structures that had for centuries excluded and demeaned us. Having a Nigerian father and African-American mother and white step-father, I’ve been exposed to an existence that is always cross-cultural and global in nature.
Toya always includes her own personal perspective in all of her writing, drawing on her life experience and travels to understand the places where Black literature and language intersect with the rich and deep cultural traditions of Africa, while also having its own unique and potent distinction because of our legacy and ancestral connection to slavery. Her Master’s thesis was a creative collection of short stories on her grandmother’s life and legacy in the Black neighborhood, Stop Six, in Fort Worth, TX. She's written on Beyonce’s Lemonade as a neo-slave narrative and the influence of the Persian poet Tahirih on Western feminist studies. She's also presented papers on Kara Walker and Toni Morrison’s Five Poems, the Black Women’s Club Movement, Mary Prince and a new poetics, and at times her own creative works.