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My Culture, My Color, My Self

My Culture, My Color, My Self: Heritage, Resilience, and Community in the Lives of Young Adults

Toby S. Jenkins
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 204
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  • Book Info
    My Culture, My Color, My Self
    Book Description:

    Understanding our cultural heritage and sharing a cultural community's history helps motivate individuals to take agency and create change within their communities. But are today's youth appreciative of their culture, or apathetic towards it?In her vibrant ethnographyMy Culture, My Color, My Self,Toby Jenkins provides engrossing, in-depth interviews and poignant snapshots of young adults talking about their lives and culture. She recounts D'Leon's dream to become a positive example for African American men, and Francheska describing how her late mother inspired her appreciation of her Boricua heritage. In these and other portraits, Jenkins considers the role that cultural education and engagement plays in enhancing educational systems, neighborhood programs, and community structures.My Culture, My Color, My Selfalso features critical essays that focus on broader themes such as family bonds, education, and religion. Taken together, Jenkins shows how people of color use their culture as both a politic of social survival and a tool for social change.

    eISBN: 978-1-4399-0831-0
    Subjects: Education, Sociology, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Prologue: My Culture, My Color, My Self
    (pp. 1-10)

    Nineteen years ago, as a young African American college woman, I began what was to become a significant cultural journey. College came to serve as an extension of a life filled with cultural growth and learning. It was almost impossible to imagine life without the rituals, activities, and values that had come to frame my existence from a very young age. But what was different about my cultural experiences in college was that, for the first time, they were coupled with deep intellectual engagement. I was not only being exposed to information about my culture; I was also being asked...

  5. Introduction: Cultural Leadership: The Audacity in the Ordinary
    (pp. 11-17)

    Lloyd, an African American student who participated in the study that informed this book, saw his culture in the broad sense of a local and national community. He wrote, “It is my hope that I will one day be in a position to further dispel the negative notions by reaching back into my cultural community to pass on cultural lessons and provide an alternative future for those who come after me.” For Lloyd, cultural heritage can be used to save lives and change futures. Ultimately, what he is referring to is cultural leadership. By gaining a deeper, more critical understanding...

  6. 1 There’s No Place like Home: An Ethic of Cultural Love
    (pp. 18-32)

    We often imagine our cultural historians, storytellers, and griots to be elders—those that have lived long lives with deep meaning. But my own, Gen-X story bears witness to the fact that seeds of insight and wisdom do not take very long to grow. Whether the cause is the nurturing sun and rain (family love and encouragement) or toxic pesticides (poverty and oppression), our young flowers grow up fast. And they have incredible stories to tell. The voices and cultural experiences of young adults need to be heard.

    However, across many ethnicities today, folks often wonder if younger generations have...

  7. 2 A Half-Full Glass of Family Bonds
    (pp. 33-57)

    Shernã is a petite young woman with a very reserved manner. She is a small woman with an even smaller voice. Though her statements are not audibly “big,” they always seem to have a large impact. Her words are meaningful and important. She is majoring in journalism and has aspirations of being a writer. For her, this is a very meaningful process. Though she knew what her family valued and how they approached life, she did not necessarily know why. Being asked to tell her cultural story helped her to understand her family. She shared with me that participating in...

  8. 3 A Politic of Survival
    (pp. 58-75)

    Daniel’s cultural story was difficult to get through. He is a young man with whom I was able to spend much more time than the others. I worked on his college campus and interacted with him in various capacities—both inside and outside the classroom. Dan had previously taken a few of my classes, and he was also actively involved with the university cultural center that I directed. Dan took advantage of everything on campus. He was involved everywhere—student organizations like the NAACP and Black Caucus, fraternity life, cultural center programs, mentoring programs, leadership programs, and political organizations, and...

  9. 4 Education, Culture, and Freedom
    (pp. 76-101)

    “Who am I really? Looking through the mirror of my past, present, and future.” This is the title Fernando gives his life story. I find this interesting. The question seems to imply that exploring culture might provide him insight into a deeper part of himself—a greater understanding of the core of his being. The metaphor of the mirror is equally compelling—that perhaps by looking at his past, present, and future he will see a reflection—a mirror image of himself as a total man. Fernando is a Dominican American student. He radiates a welcoming and almost loving demeanor....

  10. 5 Art, Land, and Spirit
    (pp. 102-132)

    Derrick is an incredibly friendly and outgoing young man. During his group interview he very quickly comes out as the “life of the party,” joking with almost everyone and generally bringing an overwhelmingly positive attitude into the space. Derrick does in fact have much to be happy about. He is a star athlete at a university where football is a major tradition. His choice to attend Penn State was heavily covered in his hometown. Both of his parents went to college, and his father played in the NFL. He is popular on campus and, it seems, rightfully so. He is...

  11. 6 Cultural Heritage Still Matters
    (pp. 133-149)

    Breanna, better known as Bre, is a nineteen-year-old biracial young woman from East Orange, New Jersey. In her self-portrait she states, “I am Breanna Miller born July 7th, 1988, in East Orange, New Jersey, to my mother and grandparents of African American descent, with black heritage so powerful and inspiring that it changed the world.” This reveals a lot about this young woman. She is another student who belongs to both her mother and grandparents. She is another student whose life story is filled with economic struggle and extended family support. She balances a deep love and appreciation for her...

  12. 7 The House That Struggle Built: A Portrait of Culture
    (pp. 150-160)

    This closing portrait of culture is painted specifically for college educators. It provides a summary image of what all these stories and perspectives come together to tell us as educators. But just as art is not appreciated by only artists, this chapter is open for all to enjoy. Any parent with a student in college, anyone who works in or is studying the field of higher education, anyone who plans to have a child in college one day, or any community member who is simply concerned with the growth and development of our future leaders can find meaning and insight...

  13. Epilogue
    (pp. 161-162)

    Art is a crucial part of my existence—as a woman, as an educator, and even as a researcher. Every piece of work that I produce is at some level poetic. And so, rather than write traditional field notes as I conducted this study, I crafted from my notes a spoken poem summarizing the insights that I gained from this research, which I share below:

    We need some inspiration . . . some fire

    We need a spark or revelation to ignite our desire

    To want more, to do more, to be more for our families

    To understand what it...

  14. Appendix: Research Methods
    (pp. 163-170)
  15. Notes
    (pp. 171-176)
  16. References
    (pp. 177-184)
  17. Index
    (pp. 185-192)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 193-193)