Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Writing, Witnessing & Healing: A Community of Black Male Students Confronting Loss
by Lo, Cassandra, Ed.D., University of Pennsylvania, 2018, 221; 10788022
Abstract (Summary)

Now more than ever, it is imperative that we provide spaces for our students to share and witness testimonies of trauma, specifically about losses that they may experience. With little room in the curriculum for these important avenues of expression, students are grieving in isolation without support. Black male students, who are often seen as “problems” or “trouble,” are especially not provided with the spaces or moments necessary to understand and write about death experiences or impactful moments in their lives. With a theoretical framework derived from critical race theory, trauma studies and relational teaching, I argue that spaces for sharing and building communities of loss are critical for Black male students who are particularly deprived of these opportunities. The primary goal of this study was to improve the schooling experiences for Black male students who are grieving from trauma, especially the death of a family member, by examining what happens when they are provided with space to share their stories and witness others’ testimonies. For this study, students at an all-boys’ charter high school in a large Northeast city met weekly during the Spring 2017 semester to write and share about their lived experiences. This qualitative study employed research methods from the fields of practitioner inquiry and narrative inquiry. The findings from this study revealed that: 1. Certain pedagogies lend themselves to sharing written and spoken narratives about lost loved ones and critical witnessing and reciprocal witnessing are necessary parts of these student communities. 2. When faced with loss, the students sought support structures and experienced both positive and negative support from their families, peers and school staff. 3. There was a range of emotions, from anger to joy, when remembering through writing and speaking about their deceased family members. For students who experienced loss, especially those who are marginalized and silenced because of their identities, testimonials of trauma are necessary to share, but are often suppressed and not witnessed by others. This study acknowledges the affordances of a classroom where trauma narratives are shared and witnessed.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Thomas, Ebony E.
Commitee: Dutro, Elizabeth, Stornaiuolo, Amy, Waff, Diane
School: University of Pennsylvania
Department: Reading, Writing, Literacy
School Location: United States -- Pennsylvania
Source: DAI-A 79/10(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Language arts, Black studies, Secondary education, Gender studies
Keywords: Black male students, College essay, English education, Grief and loss, Personal writing, Trauma studies
Publication Number: 10788022
ISBN: 978-0-438-04620-7
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