Recently launched Community Literacys Collaboratory
Eric Darnel Pritchard
The Brown Chair in English Literacy Initiative is pleased to announce the launch of a new center, the Community Literacies Collaboratory, which took place on May 6th. The international virtual event introduced university members and the public to different programs that CLC has already started offering and will continue to offer in the future.
The event also introduced attendees to the CLC website, which explains the organization’s mission: “The Community Literacies Collaboratory (CLC) facilitates and supports a variety of literacy partnerships – ranging from academic research and educational and political community programming focused on various aspects of empowerment and advocacy in Arkansas and nationally. The CLC does this work through a vision centered on an ethic of justice, imagination, community responsibility and love.
The Community Literacies Collaboratory defines literacy as a “practice beyond reading and writing, in areas of communication using shared cultural dialects and symbols. It is seen through the clothes we wear and the diversity of community dialects that we honor and embrace.” This definition enables the organization to support a wide range of initiatives, consistent with inclusive, equitable and justice-oriented approaches to literacy learning, development and practice.
With help from web designer Adam Ritchey of InterraMedia, the CLC website was developed by Eric Darnell Pritchard, Associate Professor of English and Brown Chair in English Literacy, and Robin Bruce and Jackie Chicalese, both MFA students in the Creative Writing and Translation program. as well as graduate assistants for the CLC and the Brown Chair in English Literacy.
The CLC invites a diversity of “literacy stakeholders – advocates, educators, researchers, and creatives” to participate in its programs, seek collaboration, and request the use of its resources in programs that are free and open to the public.
One of the initial programs the CLC runs is The Literacy Exchange, through which community literacy facilitators can offer workshops on “literacy research methods and methodology, writing workshops, and presentations on the programs applied literacy, as well as training on integrating various types of literature into K-12 classrooms, creating after-school youth literacy programs and doing literacy work adults. “
The Literacy Exchange, in conjunction with the Fayetteville Public Library, has previously offered two workshops, “Planning Writing Projects” and “Contemplative Writing,” which were led by Beth Godbee, founder of Heart-Head-Hands: Everyday Living for Justice.
Pritchard said he was pleased with the turnout at the first literacy exchange events and looks forward to future workshops. “We’ve already heard from Arkansans and others that our offerings over the past year have been key to improving literacy, building community, and creating a space in which participants have learned skills that have enriched their lives,” Pritchard said. “The heart of all community literacy work is people. We are thrilled to now have the CLC as the vessel through which we will continue this work and further strengthen our capacity for collaboration.”
Another program offered is the Possibilities Hub, through which the Community Literacies Collaboratory funds “seminars, reading groups, or a series of lectures that explore a topic through and/or about literacy in order to expand the capacity individual and collective to understand what literacy work can be and do today.”
The Possibilities Hub’s first seminar, “Abolitionist Study Group: Literacies Toward Freedom,” took place last spring as part of the Brown Chair’s lineup for the 2022 National African American Read-In. Seminar attendees discussed topics such as the history of prisons and policing in the United States, reform and/vs. abolition, queer and black feminist approaches to abolition, justice for people with disabilities, carceral links between psychiatric services and nursing facilities, and abolition in practice.
The success of this first seminar demonstrated how the Possibilities Hub can be used to encourage deeper dialogue on specific literacy topics.
A third CLC-sponsored program is Outside-the-Box, which “invites community literacy workers to write brief, accessible, and thought-provoking policy briefs, reports, or essays on a current issue in the learning and practicing literacy”. These texts will be used to inform the public on how to develop or improve literacy activities “in a wide range of contexts”. Those whose texts are accepted for publication will be remunerated for their work.
The Community Literacies Collaboratory will also hold its first biennial symposium, “Tracing the Stream: The Geographies of Black Feminist Literacies, Rhetorics, and Pedagogies,” from October 27-29. Co-hosted with Carmen Kynard, Lillian Radford Professor of Rhetoric and Composition and Professor of English at Texas Christian University, the symposium will “(re)examine difficult and necessary questions about what does (or could mean) study, teach and activate black feminist literacies and the rhetorical tradition in 2022 and beyond.”
The symposium will be held in conjunction with a graduate seminar that Pritchard will offer in the fall of 2022.
Finally, the CRC will launch a call for grant proposals twice a year: on September 30 and February 28. More details on how to apply will be posted on the website by the end of the summer.