Threads of Peace

•2013.06.07 • Leave a Comment

“Pray for the dead, and fight like hell for the living.”  Mother Jones


I was born and raised in Newtown, Connecticut. I went to college and never moved back there again. Instead, I started my journey as an urban educator and a vagabond traveler, but Newtown always remained my hometown. I never expected to see it trending on Twitter.

As a teacher working with young people in Manhattan, it was a strange experience after I learned about the tragic events there. A lot of the youth that I work with in New York have seen too much violence in their lives. And yet, at that moment, I felt like the most affected person in my school. It hit so close to home. I remembered back to my days as a carefree kid in one of the other elementary schools in Newtown. I spent my days playing soccer and drawing superheroes. I feared nothing.

I started writing this on the subway last December, right after the horror in Newtown happened.  I knew I wanted to begin to write purposefully about peace, about non-violent education and the need to educate for goodness, hope and healing in the face of such a senseless tragedy.



(drawing by Josh Moreira) 

Over the past decade, Brooklyn has become my home.  I feel safe in New York and am grateful for the fact that I don’t live in fear. This past Sunday morning, I woke up after celebrating my nephew’s high school graduation in Chicago to learn that a former student of mine had been shot and killed on the street in his Bronx neighborhood. Ivan (AKA Ooze) was only 21 years old.

After I heard the news of his death, I began remembering the small details that only an English teacher might remember. The circles he drew to dot his i’s and exclamation points, the fight he put up against Holden Caufield as a spoiled trust-fund baby, and his epically deep sense of interpretation, wordplay and irony. He was hard, to be sure. But he had a spirit and brilliance that always shone through his rough exterior. I was glad I had brief video of him to share online, dropping knowledge in an interview and getting light dancing in the high school hallways. We carry those we lose in our remembrance of their lives.

Although I worked in the Bronx, I never lived there.  As a white woman from Connecticut, I always try to reflect upon and recognize my role, my place, and my privilege.  I know I have never experienced even a fraction of the hardcore violence that Ivan saw in his life. At the fundraiser for his funeral, I saw so many former students. They told me about another friend that had lost his life to gun violence just the week before.  Like Ivan, lost far too young to a senseless crime. Things will never be the same.


The first time I went to the annual Anarchist Book Fair in NYC, I bought a t-shirt that read “Books Are Weapons in the War of Ideas.” It was from the librarians at Radical Reference and features a dove flying with a book in its talons. Presumably, the content of the book sparks peaceful learning and action.  As much as I love the sentiment, one of the most challenging things I experience as an educator is finding a shared language with students, one which does not revolve around competition or conflict to find solutions to questions and problems. The metaphor of militancy, the idea of warring over ideas, is inherently a violent one.

In times of tragedy, it is important to be of service. It is, however, perhaps more important to love and cherish each other in our waking lives. I feel a deep obligation to protect, defend and inform the young people I work with in the struggle against violence in their lives. Not just local violence, but all forms of assault. Recently, the National Rifle Association proposed a damnable idea: to teach school children to handle weapons beginning in first grade. How could anyone think that more intimacy with weapons will make us safer? As ubiquitous as it seems at times, we must remove weaponology from our language and our culture. We must leverage tools that build us up, not tear us down.

In my day to day, I try to take a play from Newark Mayor Cory Booker and take a public stance against hateful practices in thought, language and action. Yet even the research I conduct now, the Drop Knowledge Project, is about explosions of insight and information in spaces of peer education and activism. What would the world look like if words weren’t used as weapons? What if armament was not the first reaction in times of malcontent or despair? When will weapons no longer be used to solve problems, but seen as the tools through which violent action is accepted and perpetuated?

#redefine #power

I finished writing this essay listening to “Murder to Excellence” as my flight from Chicago landed in New York. I couldn’t help but feel a deep sadness and anger for all the unnecessary loss: “Power to the people, when you see me, see you.” What’s so different between the Newtown shooting and Ivan’s death? We must recognize the humanity that bonds us. We must bring peace, live non-violence, and act in ways that demonstrate our commitment to healing despite our anger, our outrage and our pain.

If and when the Sandy Hook Elementary School is opened again, I hope it is opened as a purposeful place of non-violence education. When I publish my first book, I’m dedicating it to Ivan and to the struggle for peace, to secure counter-spaces to organize against gun violence. I write this in the memory of those lost in Newtown, and to Ooze. In the words of Myrlie Evers, the wife of murdered civil rights leader Medgar Evers, we are left with no choice but to rise up “for us, the living.



Academic Attack Zone

•2012.11.05 • Leave a Comment

I aligned my post-structuralist writing with something more readable for the research world. I am deeply appreciative for my brilliant committee for their wisdom. Here lies my revised 6 chapter outline:

1.0 Introduction: the Imaginary Horizon

1.1 Introducing the Drop Knowledge Project

1.1.1. Etymology of the Drop Knowledge Project

1.1.2. Ethics of the Drop Knowledge Project

1. Creating the Drop Knowledge Project

1.2.1 Genealogy of the Drop Knowledge Project in New York City

1.2.2 Significance and Purpose as a Critical Literacy Study

1.2.3 Illuminating the Context of Urban Youth Organizing

1.3 Deconstructing Research Methods

1.3.1 Asking Research Questions

1.3.2. Making Academic Arguments

1.3.2 Celebrating Caveats and Interludes

1.4 Supporting a Sustainable Future for Youth Activism

1.5 Lessons on the Disruptive Power of Youth Activists

1.6 Introducing Joy as a Vital Metaphor for Convergence


2.0 Research Design

2.1 Ethical-Political Research Objectives

2.2 A Process of Participatory Polyvocality

2.2.1 Engaging in Participatory Action Research

2.2.2 Establishing Polyvocality through Critical Auto/Ethnography

2.3 Data Collection Methods

2.3.1 Contextualizing the DKPNYC Research Settings

2.3.2 Exploring the Expertise of DKPNYC Participants

2.4 Data Analysis Methods

2.4.1 Description of Data Analysis

2.4.2 Process of Data Analysis

2.5 Proof


3.0 Review of the Literature on Youth Organizing and Activism

3.1 Defining the History and Context of Youth Organizers

3.1.1 Tracing Definitions of Activism and Organizing

3.1.2 Describing Divergent Histories of Youth Activism

3.1.3 Illuminating Contemporary Contexts of Youth Organizing

3.2 Conducting Activist Research with Urban Youth Organizers

3.2.1 Contextualizing the Study of Urban Youth Organizing

3.2.2. Understanding the Research on Youth Organizing

3.2.3 Learning about Learning in Youth Organizing Projects

3.2.4 A Descriptive Analysis of Critical Literacy Praxis in Youth Organizing

3.2.5 An Activist Approach to Critical Literacy Research with Urban Youth Organizers


4.0 Review of the Literature on Critical Literacy

4.1 Negotiating a Shared Language around Literacy Learning

4.1.1 Defining Critical Literacy to Become Critically Literate

4.1.2 Tracing the Study of Critical Literacy Theory

4.2  Activating Critical Literacy Praxis

4.2.1 Contemporary Examples of Critical Literacy Research

4.2.2 Limitations to Critical Literacy in Schools

4.2.3 Lessons on the Actionable Elements of Critical Literacy Praxis

4.2.4 Innovative Approaches to Critical Literacy in the Study of Youth Organizing


5.0 Portraying Collaborative Research

5.1 Fragmented Portraits of the DKPNYC Participants

5.1.1 Vaga De Franco

5.1.2 Gentle Meadows

5.1.3 Green Strawberries

5.1.4 People’s Republic of Mars

5.1.5 Awesome Woman

5.1.6 Dominican Puerto Rican Arab


6.0 Drawing Conclusions

6.1. Community, Reflexivity, Literacy

6.1.1 On Communities of Youth Organizers

6.1.2 Reflexivity in the Collaborative Study of Organizing

6.1.3 Implications for Critical Literacy Learning

6.2  Ethics, Validity, Visioning

6.2.1 Focus on Ethics

6.2.2 Transgressive Validity

6.2.3 Implications and Visions for Further Research

Illuminati Mythology

•2012.11.02 • Leave a Comment

This is a line of flight into my zero draft of a new article on the study of celebrity bullshit.

I’ve never been able to understand the death grip celebrity news has in the first world.I hate to think about it’s exportation around the globe and any ensuing annihilation/nullification of local and indigenous cultures as a result.

Building Blocks

•2012.09.29 • Leave a Comment

“Becoming Activist” – Chapter Titles and Tracks.

Due to be released Spring 2013 by Emma Goldman Press.


Chapter i. Introduction: Locating the Imaginary Horizon.

Chapter 0. Mapping Rhizomatic Research Lines: Engendering Promiscuous Epistemologies

Chapter 1. Research De/sign: Deconstructing Form and Reconstructing Method

Chapter 2. Deterritorializing Contexts: Explorations in Past/Present/Future Youth Activism

Chapter 3. Thinking Differently: A Taxonomy of Critical Literacy in Educational Research

Chapter 4. Hybrid Uprising: Six Trajectories of Individual Urban Youth Organizers

Chapter 5. VagaDeFranco

Chapter 6. Gentle Meadows

Chapter 7. Green Strawberries

Chapter 8. People’s Republic of Mars

Chapter 9. Awesome Woman

Chapter 10. Dominican Puerto Rican Arab

Chapter 11. Tracing Lines of Flight: A Community of Activists and Activisms

Chapter 12. Refracting A Fraction of Activists: Participatory Action Research Enacted

Chapter 13. Auto/ethnographic Iteration: When We Speak/When We’re Silent

Chapter 14. Against Academentia: On Making Academic Arguments

Chapter 15. Fragmented Findings: An Argument For Forms of Transgressive Validity

Chapter 16. Reflections on Reflecting: Metacognition from Activists Becoming Activist

Chapter 17. Anti-Oppressive Implications: A Queer Theory of Critically Literate Activism

Chapter 18. What It Means To Occupy Everywhere: Internalizing the Extra!Personal

Chapter 19. A Nietzschean Remix: A Few Aphoristic Points About the Ethical-Political

Chapter 20. Future Tracks: Visions Extending Educational Rhizomatic Research Agendas

Chapter 21. The Eternal Return of the Epilogue: On Joy as a Vital Force for Convergence

Generative Evolutions of Information Activism

•2012.07.20 • Leave a Comment

Alas, after months of working to run the DKPNYC research project and begin to launch the global DKP, the new and improved Drop Knowledge Project website. Here you can access information about the international news around youth activists and organizers. For information on the New York City-based educational research study, visit the restructured DKPNYC page. 

Recommended Reading

•2012.04.09 • Leave a Comment

Van Jones publishes Rebuilding the American Dream. Check it out at

Hope Springs Eternal

•2012.03.24 • Leave a Comment

Cornel West wrote “I cannot be an optimist but I am a prisoner of hope.” I feel the deep reverberations of his words in my head. I am sending off dozens of pages of writing to my five brilliant advisors as I draft this, and my morning was filled with rich dialogues amongst notable critical educators like Ernest Morrell, Kevin Kumashiro and Bill Ayers. I am activated, motivated, and fully aware that another world is possible. I’d love to write more, but I’ve got editing to do! Welcome to the American Spring. #LetFreedomSpring