The function of literacy in the life of a former member of the Black Panther Party
Richardson, Tara Alice
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The purpose of this study was to map the personal literacy experiences of a former member of the Black Panther Party Afeni Shakur. Mostly, I explored the function of literacy in the life of Afeni Shakur as a way to better understand how she experienced literacy at different times in her life. In particular, the term literacy was not defined as simply reading and writing. The definitions of literacy used in this study were contingent upon the discourse in which they were constructed (Bové, 1990; Butler, 1995; Derrida, 1966/1978; Foucault, 1969/1972). However, for purposes of clarity, eight different conceptions of literacy were used in the study. The formulation of these conceptions came about as a result of the profound statements by Afeni Shakur, “Reading works for me, reading gave me dreams, reading gave me weapons” (Guy, 2004, pp. 40-41) and by reading and (re)reading works by Gilles Deleuze (1993/1997) and Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari (1975/2000, 1980/1987). I also provided a brief description of literacy within six contemporary perspectives (1) Conventional Literacy; (2) Functional Literacy; (3) Cultural Literacy; (4) Critical Literacy; (5) Fugitive Literacy; and (6) Literacy as Mots d’ Ordre. A hybrid of theoretical frameworks including Poststructural Theory, Black Feminist Theory, and Literacy Theory appropriated by the work of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari (1980/1987) were applied. Methodological insight from the work of Deleuze and Guattari (1980/1987) guided the steps that I took to complete a rhizoanalysis. Drawing on the concept of the rhizome resulted in a variation of methods such as fragmented narrativization, interviews, and the use of archival data. This study aims to inform the growing body of literature in the field of language and literacy education.