Engaged Scholars is a series highlighting Ohio State faculty who have made an impact in our communities through their community-engaged research and teaching.
Dr. Elaine Richardson
Professor of Literacy Studies, Department of Teaching and Learning
College of Education and Human Ecology
Overall, my approach to Black community literacies work is interested in challenging the sociopolitical arrangement of the relations between languages, identities and power through engagement with dominating narratives in order to interrupt systemic inequality. Black women and girls' empowerment in out of school spaces and the Hiphop Literacies Conference, which addresses issues relevant to the lives of Hiphop generation youth, are two major defining streams of my community engaged scholarship. I employ and innovate New Literacies Studies and Critical Discourse and Society frameworks. My work foregrounds critical community-based research, arts and critical literacy pedagogy for social justice. The goal is to empower historically oppressed and underserved Black people to use language, texts and forms that blur genres and cross fictional and social divides. In my work I facilitate learners in creation, elevation and display of stories and discourses through performance arts genres to imagine alternate realities and futures for themselves. I encourage them to create texts and performances that may infuse new media into the socio political and critical literacy process.
Why is it important to engage the community in your research and teaching?
The community is central to my research and teaching because my work is grounded in their life experiences. My training and expertise are a community resource. Our partnership is based on reciprocity. We both have something to teach each other to realize more healing and empowering ways forward. Some potential funders look at social inequity issues in terms of deficits in people rather than in systems, and they want engaged scholars to use terminology and measures that do not accurately address the issue. Oftentimes communities themselves have been indoctrinated into dominant narratives which makes it difficult to rally the power needed for systemic change. For collective power building we need work that brings us together, so we can learn and unlearn about each other to create strong alliances based on "differently experienced yet connected exploitation and oppression." Tap into the underutilized expertise of community members. Listen and learn from them, even when we do not agree. Teaching and learning is crucial to the research.
What led you to the path of engaged scholarship? How did you get started?
When my daughters were in high school, they wanted to start an afterschool club for Black students in their predominantly white setting. There were no Black teachers or teachers of color who could guide them, so my daughters got the school to allow me to be the advisor. From then on, I've been involved in working with Black youth and families in out of school settings in some form or another.
How has your scholarship benefited from engaging with community partners?
My scholarship has benefited because the community keeps my work relevant and meaningful. My scholarship is in dialogical relationship with my community-based praxis. It's a continuous process of learning and looking at problems from different points of view. Overall, it helps me to focus on what's important. The litmus test of validity for me is when my scholarship is informed by life experiences and humanity of the communities I work with, giving voice to the knowledge they've shared with me.
What has been a highlight of your community engagement experience?
Seeing people that I worked with and they tell me how much working with me meant to their lives. They tell me things that they learned with me or how I helped them. Also, I love seeing myself in people and seeing people in me.
What advice would you give to faculty and students who are interested in engaging the community in their scholarship?
It takes time to build relationships, to understand a community and develop a broader understanding of a social problem. Know your worth. Stay true to your integrity. Take care of yourself - holistically. It's easy to get used up and burned out. I think research is always in some way reflective of the researcher. It's not about being an academic star. It's about making a difference in society and in people's lives.
Sample Engaged Scholarship
Richardson, E. (forthcoming). Underlying Conditions: Black Womxn, Girls, Corona and the PandemixA One Woman Show. IN (Eds.) Hesford, W. et.al Human Rights on the Move forthcoming in the new book series, On Possibility: Social Change and the Arts + Humanities (OSUP).
Richardson, E. (2021). 'She Ugly: Black Girls, Women in Hiphop and Activism- Hiphop Feminist Literacies Perspectives, Special issue Critical Social Justice Possibilities in Hiphop Literacies, Edited by Elaine Richardson Community Literacy Journal. 34 doubled spaced manuscript pages. Volume 16.1 (2021)
Saeedi, S., & Richardson, E. A Black Lives Matter and Critical Race Theory-Informed Critique of Code-Switching Pedagogy, IN Kinloch, V. Burkhardt. T. & Penn, C. (Eds.). Race, Justice, and Activism in Literacy Instruction. New York, NY: Teachers College Press. (2020)
Richardson, E. (2019). Centering Black Mothers Stories for Critical Literacies, English Teaching Practice & Critique. https://www.academia.edu/41375551/Centering_Black_mothers_stories_for_critical_literacies
Richardson, E.& Ragland, A. (2018). #StayWoke: The Language and Literacies of The #BlackLivesMatter Movement, Community Literacy Journal: A Journal of the Conference on Community Writing (12.2, Spring.2018). pps. 27-56.