Reflection on essay 1.0
In my Honors Writing 122 class we were asked to write about what we thought might be the most significant person or event in Black American history. Prior to taking this course, I was largely unfamiliar with Black American (BA) history, since I was mostly indoctrinated with Western perspective. Even my Eugene International High School career promising to “value diversity” didn’t enlighten me on BA history. We were busy studying fellow European and other aboriginal histories, such as Germany, Australia, etc. Through Honors Writing 122 I was exposed to BA history. Having began to grapple with a few larger themes I saw playing out in the history presented, I was curious about some of these present day manifestations in BA culture. Since we were asked to research an event or person, I reflected on my best friend who since middle school had loved a group called WUTANG Clan. Realizing that despite our 13 year friendship, I still just “didn’t get ‘it’”. I didn’t understand what aspect of this hip-hop group appealed to her, why she wanted to listen to music that made claims like, “Cash Rules Everything Around Me,” (C.R.E.A.M), the name of a song that often echoed through her home growing up. I felt perplexed, stuck in my perspective which was full of utopian ideas and envisioned a world where money didn’t matter and all that Kumbaya White girl stuff where I didn’t understand why people would make music like that. After identifying this judgement, focusing on GZA, a member of the WUTANG Clan, felt like a natural choice in order for me to expand past my current perspective and learn something valuable. Little did I know, as a future educator myself, that GZA was currently working on Science Genius, a program to engage urban youth in sciences through hip-hop rhyme cypher. This program, Science Genius, would evolve into becoming my essay’s significant even in BA history.
With the discovery of GZA’s involvement in Science Genius, my research was becoming unexpectedly more intriguing and felt relevant to my major in Education. I felt lucky to stumble upon an event that discussed the importance of including BA culture in the classroom setting, which one day was a place I hoped to be aiding and encouraging all young students to explore and learn. I realized I hadn’t thought enough about cultural inclusion and adequacy in a curriculum, or what that meant for me as an educator. I felt encouraged to learn about how Science Genius attempted to do this in relation to BA culture. This process was intellectually rewarding, but sometimes difficult. Discussing the importance of cultural competency in academia via Science Genius and BA culture was enlightening and reinforcing, yet articulating my voice was at times difficult. I struggled with making a transition from argumentative writing that was framed by “war as metaphor” (cite), which was easily transparent when discussing BA culture due to inherent linguistic patterns I had developed. But this class challenged me to develop my awareness regarding these habits.
In researching GZA and therefore, Science Genius, I was exposed to a pedagogical teaching approach that addressed the needs of the diversity of the student population. Specific to BA culture, researching Science Genius was the catalyst for me thinking about how mainstream academica was perpetuating a mono-racial society and that only though actively developing a curriculum that represented the identities of all students, would a school curriculum meet the needs of its students. In addition, in learning about Science Genius and GZA’s contributions to the program, I overcame a prior judgement that was unfamiliar with BA perspective. In my research, I was able to begin understanding the metaphors of GZA and WUTANG Clan, enlightening me on the deeper structures in these previously misunderstood messages.
My thesis was a process that I also struggled to clearly identify through my research. This again, was relating to my struggle in identifying my voice. I knew what I had identified as the major theme in my research, but in order to articulate my ability to make critically analyze my research, it was necessary for me to find my voice. This was because without using I statements and clearly speaking my analysis of the data I shared in my research, I wasn’t including myself in the conversation regarding this significant event in BA history. Ultimately, I decided on my thesis which read, “Science Genius is a pivotal point in Black American history because the program empowers and engages Black American youth, whom have been left out of the this traditional mainstream Eurocentric curriculum” (cite). This was my thesis since it clearly identified what Science Genius addressed in BA history, and how it accomplished this.
In the research process for Essay 1.0, there were multiple course outcomes and goals that I felt I worked toward. I believe I addressed the second, third and sixth course goals rather successfully. The second course goal reads, “Demonstrate effective critical thinking and reading skills of college-level texts”. Specifically, I feel confident that I addressed the goal of considering the deeper elements in the read texts in class. This course taught me the importance of taking into account who the text was written by, why they were relevant to your research and how to really identify what your source was articulating. Specific to BA history, learning the origins and evolution of Creole and Pidgin developed my ability to understand pieces of BA literature. Through identifying the deeper structures in BA linguistics, it enhanced my understanding of what was being said given the context, audience and culture. The third goal states, “Make appropriate effective rhetorical choices within specific Writing situations during multiple stages of the writing process, including: invention, drafting, revising, and editing”. I believe I worked toward this by continually considering who my audience was. Finally, the sixth goal states, “Effectively employ and critically analyze the accepted conventions and formatting of academic writing”. I did this by taking the time to identify what determined an argumentative essay. Through online research via reliable sources, I learned the specific requirements that qualified an essay as academic argumentative writing. This included things that I did not previously know, such as technical things like numbered pages, my name, and the course title. I also sought help in the Writing Resource Center and with the help of a tutor identified additional areas in my paper that needed MLA editing. This included things like keeping a quote double spaced when indented.
In the process of writing Essay 1.0, I learned about myself that I held previous judgements or barrier that kept me from understanding hip-hop and rap, which is a sliver of Black American youth culture. This felt like a huge personal breakthrough that will translate into my professional capabilities. I learned that I must actively work towards weaving my own voice into my writing. I understand the importance of this, as it encourages a dialogue and intersections between people who often don’t take part in a mutual exchange. This will be helpful in my future projects and courses since this philosophy is key in making breakthroughs, bridging understanding, and creating collaborating and cooperative communities.
Annotated Bibliography Reflection
I had never compiled an Annotated Bibliography prior to this assignment. Therefore, the research process was entirely new for me. Luckily, having the workshop provided, I was able to gain a better understanding on the format and technical aspects of making an annotated bibliography. This made it much more approachable, since initially I was overwhelmed while trying to get started on the assignment at home. Unsure about the framework, my anxiety prevented me from making much progress since I didn’t feel as though I was able to get a solid start.
Despite these frustrations, I felt that the assignments expectations encouraged a solid research process that required full understanding of our source material. It was a challenge to stay within the contact zone, but I think this expectation for our project really supported the contact zone concept which, as Pratt explains, is an area in which genuine exchange and dialogue occurs between people of difference. Therefore, defining the dates and keeping within the time frame supported research which genuinely explored the discussion directly relevant to the topic we had each chosen for our essay. This part of the process, although a challenge, felt like a positive influence on my research by providing technical restrictions which required research the fully explored the discussion surrounding our event, without cherry picking information and sources that helped support a claim. Exploring sources during the time of event gave us an accurate lens to explore the topic as it was occurring.
Factors which I used to decide on my sources were, as stated prior, dates of publication. This, despite being a final deciding factor and sometimes reason for the inability to use a source discovered, was not the only factor. For me, I allowed my research and exploration to follow leads which lead me to areas I was unfamiliar with. In my desire to learn more about the struggles and attempts to overcome barriers faced by teachers in urban areas, my research followed a trail of new information and educational insight. I appreciate perspectives of those within the contact zone, when typically those within are talked about from the outside, as outsiders themselves. Therefore, as a person who feels readily exposed to statistics of Black youth via mainstream coverage of Black youth’s standardized test scores, graduation rates, etc, I was eager to explore academia from the perspective of Black America. So, a large factor for me in my research became the importance of exploring Black American voices in terms of the academic experience in the United States. As a result, I explored discussions within the Black community regarding hip-hop and Black vernacular in the classroom, since our Western education system speaks for White rhetoric already.
By finding sources published within this contact zone, my research exposed common themes in the Black community in regards to education. Although discussed in various ways, all sources at least referenced Black American rhetorics utilized through discussing either hip-hop or Black culture itself. The requirement to directly consider the publication source, author, and audience of my sources changed the way I thought about the research process entirely. Instead of using sources to build a claim, this approach facilitated my research in really understanding the perspectives of those who were involved in this area of exchange. Considering author and the intended audience of source resulted in me comprehending what the sources were saying specific to their desire, instead of my personal motive during my research process. THIS is real research!!!! This approach supported me in working toward the course goal which states, “Engage in an effective research process”
One of the most important things I learned about my event was just a new understanding. This assignment exposed me to the deep and integral importance of hip-hop in Black American youth culture. Honestly, I felt that hip-hop was something I never understood. It has taken lessons in Black American history and learning about the evolution and origin of African American linguistics for me to really begin to understand the elements of hip-hop in order for me to appreciate it. This appreciation was really pivotal because it has affected my desire to learn more. Recognizing the linguistic traditional Black rhetorics that hip-hop is shaped by was an awakening realization which took my research to the next level. It took me really then understanding my research topic, hip-hop, in order to “validate” it. This I find interesting as an educator because I think it is, through reflection, the perfect metaphor for the urgency for exposing all students and society to Black culture and African tradition in order to increase just, diverse and supportive learning environments as the new American standard.
By paying careful attention to the language and rhetorical devices and writing a language analysis of our sources, I saw and understood the deeper structures in Black American culture more clearly. Inherently more familiar and comfortable with White European rhetoric, the language analysis encouraged me as a researcher to really dissect the writing of Black American scholars. This process heightened my comprehension of how Black American rhetoric was prevalent in hip-hop, and therefore my understanding of how important Science Genius was to Black American urban youth became even larger. It also solidified how critical the use of programs like Science Genius are for the success of Black American youth. Not only that, more importantly, it redefines an educational system that has effectively excluded Black youth from having access to an educational framework that consists of essentially no elements which would suggest inclusion of Black culture or experience. “Identify differences in rhetorical strategies and systems and consider why these differences exits” while “Examining the social, historical, cultural, economic, and legal framework of rhetorical systems” were the course goals I worked toward during this, since I began to actually understand the integral aspects and importance of specific rhetorics in Black American history. I also, therefore, was able to identify them and when they were appropriate and why they were used.
This process was an exploration of really understanding my sources. In the past I think I have often been under the misunderstanding that in my research process it was important to find sources that supported my claim. This has encouraged me to really explore the topic I am interested in while defining my claim THROUGH the research process. As someone who hopes to be an educator, I really feel like this process has impacted my teaching abilities. I have learned to really identify my sources, understand what they are saying and to whom, identifying their true objective not related to my own. This process, I believe, will enhance my future processes of peeling back the layers to expose barriers in the educational system through qualified research. Aside from that, the biggest breakthrough for me has been exercising my knew knowledge pertaining to my the deeper structures of Black American culture and linguistics.
Lastly, this had lead to the exciting and challenging process of re-identifying my thesis as well as focus of research to match my new understandings.
Essay 2.0 Reflection
Due to my previous paper regarding Science Genius, I had the knowledge and understanding to articulate the importance of GZA’s impact regarding Black urban youth and education. My first paper have me a clear picture of the background and importance of exploring academic disparities within the Black community. This critical analysis was developed through my knowledge of Black American history. This combination transformed my understanding of GZA the individual. So, with the knowledge of Black American history, Science Genius, and GZA, I was able to develop a thesis that combined these understandings. I was able to articulate how GZA embodied the Black American experience, as well as how his method of delivery being hip-hop embodied the deeper structures of Black American history.
Specific to this contact zone, I deepened my understanding of GZA to Black American history by really conceptualizing today’s manifestations of BA history via urban youth. By staying within the contact zone on the majority of my research, I was able to translate histories experience in today’s reality for Black America. It gave me a clear picture as to what elements of oppression are still evident, while exposing the characteristics of African tradition which are present within hip-hop itself. This was apart of working toward the course goal “Identifying differences in rhetorical strategies and systems and consider why these differences exist” while “developing an understanding of the features and uses of Black American rhetoric”.
With a deeper understanding of rhetorical tools after successfully “examining the social, historical, cultural, economic and legal framework” of these systems, I was able to recognize on a deeper level how GZA both embodied this narrative of oppressed urban youth while defying these oppressive systems through hip-hop. I was able to evolve my understanding of Science Genius defying academic discrimination to understanding the deeper elements of what Science Genius really meant, and how this impacts urban youth of color. Specifically, how hip-hop embodied the deeper structures of Black American history. For example, hip-hop rhyme cypher recognizes the importance of the individual’s voice in contributing to the collective. This notion is widely integrated into African traditions which recognizes the inner-connectedness of the individual and group, which is integral to the well being of their communities.
I feel that I worked effectively at “making appropriate and effective rhetorical choices within specific Writing situations during multiple stages of the writing process”. For me, this was one of the most important discoveries within my writing. As someone who constantly attempts to bridge understanding and create meaningful dialogue, I am grateful for this experience which helped me really identify the strategies at developing this skill effectively. And in a highly charged and intense moment of “race” relations, this can’t be more important in redefining the social spaces where this dialogue occurs. I often tend to write it the past tense, and this project also helped me in fixing that aspect of my writing through recognizing the relevancy of my topic to today. This was encouraged even more through the use of concepts related to the contact zone. Personally, I struggled with aspects related to just getting thngs done in time. I am struggling a lot with managing too much as a parent, full time student, housemate, and part time employee. Therefore, I ran into technical difficulties which I didn’t have time to remedy. For example, I was unable to fix indentations related to my Works Cited page. I also didn’t have time to introduce Rickford and Rickford appropriately, which is a skill I have developed otherwise. I do know the value in introducing your sources, which before I never thought of. This is another example of understanding the writing situation, although I was unable to provide consistent evidence that I really understand this concept due to life restrictions. There are also a few areas in which my footnotes aren’t well developed to my expectations and standards, nor are a few areas cited perfectly.
Overall, this has been a great experience. I feel like I could write another 5 papers on this subject. This was due to my intense research and digestion of our coursework. I believe I successfully worked toward the course goal to “demonstrate effective critical thinking and reading skills of college texts”. This is especially true since much of my sources were related to graduate work and full pieces of literature relating to my topic. I also worked toward the goal to “engage in an effective research process”, although I feel like at the end of my paper I struggled with time to “accurately and consistently cite sources using appropriate documentation style(s)”. Which is hard for me since I know the end of a paper can really effect the entirety of your writing. I would have loved to have the time to develop additional insights. For example, really articulating how GZA and his use of hip-hop embodies elements of African tradition such as time being cyclical or wit and metaphorical grace. I’m inspired to say the least and have a ton of tools which I will carry on to my future.