Alisha Jean-Denis

PhD Candidate - UMASS Amherst

Alisha Jean-Denis

PhD Candidate - UMASS Amherst

Biography

Alisha Jean-Denis is an experienced educator, administrator and scholar, dedicated to critical dialogue that addresses diversity, equity, and inclusion —ensuring that these concepts are embedded within the foundational fabric of private independent schools. As a mother- scholar- activist, she is most inspired by practices that move beyond the status quo and uplift the voices of young people. Her current doctoral research focuses on the experience of girls of color in elite independent schools, while centering the needs of girls by honoring their differences and celebrating their cultural ways of knowing and being.
Alisha has served as Program Manager/Researcher of Yale University School of Medicine’s Urban Education & Prevention Research department, where she directed extensive assessment efforts, implemented socio-emotional curriculum, and facilitated collaborative community partnerships within the Bridgeport and New Haven school districts in Connecticut.

Alisha’s international work blends the art of storytelling resonance practices with social justice education. Her international projects have included workshops, presentations and advocacy in Nicaragua, Panama, Costa Rica, Uganda, Malawi, and Nigeria. Additionally, her teaching and scholarship with South Africa’s African Leadership Academy earned an Entrepreneurial Leadership Trainer certification. She has served as a mentor for the We Are Family Foundation’s Three Dot Dash, an initiative focusing on youth and their social impact around the world.

An Ethnographic Case Study on the literate lives of Black Girls at a Predominately White elite private School

The purpose of this study is to understand how girls’ from the African diaspora make meaning of their engagement and participation in an after school Student of Color Affinity group at a predominately White elite private all girls school in New England. This study locates how through reading cultural mentor texts Black girls’ continue to refuse, resist, and re-write their worlds.

Christina Sharpe (2016) theorizes we are living “in the wake the past that is not past, always reappears to rupture the present” (p. 15). To understand Black girls’ experiences requires wakefulness and consciousness: unearthing their stories and unmasking the structures that silence or exclude their lived experience from larger discourses. School spaces are central to wake work because they influence and shape the way in which Black girls understand themselves and their reality. This presentation will highlight\ 1) how the students co-construct and facilitate the weekly sessions for their Student of color affinity groupC 2) how their cultural and lived experiences influence the space 3) and how the use of reading selections inform the way they read the texts and their world. Using a post Black feminist lens this study celebrates the defining and claiming of space both individually and collectively. hooks (1990) theorizes that collective spaces in learning environments open up imagination and engages dialogue amongst teachers and students. hooks (1990) writes, “Spaces can be real and imagined. Spaces can tell stories and unfold stories. Spaces can be interrupted, appropriated, and transformed through artistic and literary practice” (p. 152). Furthermore, critical literacy pushes critical pedagogues to design curriculum and educational practices for Black girls that mirror their lived experiences, and allow them to draw connections to the texts and their world (Allen, 2011; Camangian, 2015; Duncan-Andrade & Morrell, 2008).

Contemporary wake work is conscious raising and builds on those opportunities to use curriculum as ways to connect the past histories of Black girls to help them understand who they are becoming today. This presentation will celebrate the brillance and joy of Black girls and the multitude of different literacies, lived experiences, language practices, that they bring into these affinity group spaces that can also be invited/ welcomed into the larger school day. Their literate lives matter.