In the introduction to her Chair’s address, Joyce Carter noted that scholar/teachers in the field of rhetoric and writing studies are “on the vanguard and in the crosshairs” and she charted us to take on this challenge: we should, she said, “celebrate writing innovation, and encourage innovation in writing, writing research, writing programs, and writing organizations.”
I saw and heard plenty to suggest that participants in this 67th Annual Conference on College Composition and Communication are heeding Carter’s words. Linda Adler-Kassner’s (and her colleagues’) vibrant and engaging program was packed from beginning to end with a variety of sessions (from the Taking Action Hub and Taking Action Workshops to the Research Network Forum, the participatory meeting of the coalition of Women Scholars, the half-day and day-long Wednesday workshops, Poster Sessions, and hundreds of panels and roundtable presentations, (not to mention all the meetings of the special interest groups), all of which provided an ongoing and moveable intellectual, emotional, and spiritual feast.
Keith Walters and I at our Everything's an Argument meet and greet at the Bedford/St. Martin's booth.
I attended events at almost every time slot from Wednesday afternoon to noon on Saturday, to the point that I was reeling with new ideas and enthusiasms, along with aching feet. As always, I came away inspired, especially by undergraduate and graduate student presenters. And conversations in the “sky walk” and corridors were equally provocative and instructive, showing that this field is alive with talent and innovation.
Speaking with the wonderful attendees at the Handbooks IdeaLab.
During the first session on Thursday morning, following Carter’s inspiriting Chair’s address, I heard Karen Jackson, Melissa Pearson, Hope Jackson, and David Green talk about “Moving beyond Conversation to Integrate HBCU Contributions into the Field of Composition,” which reinforced my desire to learn more from HBCU faculty and their magnificent students (and to visit other HBCU’s following a fabulous trip I made to Florida A&M University.
Throughout the next two days, I listened to panelists discuss studies of how best to engage students in discussions and performances of style; about storytelling as a means of achieving social justice; about how to deploy anti-racist practices in our classrooms; about organic gardens and sustainable food literacy programs; about cross-border interdependencies and networks of Canadian and American scholars and research; about feminist activism in a range of venues and situations; about empirical studies of using social media for professional purposes, and about improving writing instruction on the Mexico/U.S. border. And I saved one of the very best for the last session I was able to attend: Historiographic Participatory Action Research: Reciprocity and Benefits in “Sweet Home Alabama.” This Saturday morning session featured Michelle Robinson and two of her graduate students (Margaret Holloway and Khirsten Echols) from the University of Alabama describing the research projects that have grown out of a chance meeting with the Mayor of Hobson City, Alabama, at a meeting they attended in Zora Neale Hurston’s hometown of Eatonville, Florida. There they learned that Hobson City is the second oldest all African American city in the United States, after Eatonville, and they subsequently embarked on a multiyear project to partner with officials and citizens of Hobson City to organize and set up an archive of historical records; to create a genealogical cemetery database; to establish a mentoring project (PhotoVoice) with middle school girls that will culminate in a presentation at Hobson City’s Founder’s Day as well as an exhibit of the girls’ work at the University of Alabama’s Paul Jones Collection of African American Art; and to create a community cookbook that can help fund the library. And. More.
This embodied partnership shows what one moment of serendipity combined with the vision, energy, and talent of African American scholars and researchers can build. Talk about being in the vanguard. Talk about celebrating “writing innovation” and “innovation in writing research, writing programs, and writing organizations.” Talk about partnering to foster change and build bridges between colleges and home communities! This session summed up for me all these goals and left me breathless with inspiration and gratitude. BRAVA to all!