Text Sets, Black Life, Police Brutality and the Last Six Years by Wanda Brooks & Susan Browne
The power within text sets as pedagogical tools was cemented for us while facilitating a book club several years ago (in 2015) with youth from Philadelphia who read the following collection: Zora & Me (by Victoria Bond & T.R. Simon), One Crazy Summer (by Rita Williams-Garcia) and Hush (by Jacqueline Woodson). We also taught ELA/English pedagogy via this text set to our pre-service teachers by using the lens of composite counter-stories. The three novels depict noteworthy personal, historic and sociopolitical moments when the Black female protagonists are first exposed to racialized violence. All the stories chronicle the killing of a Black male by a white man who is either a police officer or private citizen who takes the law into his own hands. We did not know at the time how impactful or prophetic our text collection would become. Unfortunately, as we started the final novel in mid-April, a 25-year-old young man named Freddie Gray was killed by police in Baltimore, MD. His death eventually deemed a homicide. https://newsone.com/playlist/black-men-boy-who-were-killed-by-police/item/87.
Since we created this initial text collection, countless other Black men, women and youth have lost their lives: Ahmaud Arbery, (randomly followed and shot while jogging), Breonna Taylor and Atatiana Jefferson (both shot by police within their own homes), and the now well-known George Floyd (callously kneed to death for the world to see) to name a few. More recently, we grieved the murders of Daunte Wright (victim of an accidental police misfire) and Walter Wright Jr. (shot while experiencing a mental health episode). (https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/5/25/how-many-people-have-police-killed-since-george-floyd).
Brooks, W. & Browne, S. & Meirson, T. (2018). Reading, sharing and experiencing literary/lived narratives about contemporary racism. Urban Education. https://doi.org/10.1177/0042085918789733
Tulino, D., Krishnamurthy, S. & Browne, S. (2019). Resisting anti-blackness through counternarratives. English Journal, 109(2), 32-38.
Wanda M. Brooks is a Professor of Literacy Education in the College of Education at Temple University. She teaches courses related to literacy theories, research and instruction as well as qualitative research methods. Her research examines African American/Black literature for youth and middle grades readers’ literary understandings. Before taking a university level faculty position, she taught middle grades language arts in several east coast public schools.
Susan Browne, Ed.D. is an associate professor in the Department of Language, Literacy and Sociocultural Education at Rowan University. Dr. Browne teaches undergraduate and graduate reading courses. She serves as a research advisor to Master’s and Ed.D. candidates and teaches in the College of Education Center for Access, Equity and Success (CASE) Ph.D. Program. Dr. Browne’s research interests and publications are in the areas of critical pedagogy, urban education, multicultural literature and reader response.