Inclement Winter Weather Notice: Due to the inclement winter weather, the keynote has been rescheduled to Saturday, March 3 at 9:30 a.m.


Dr. David E. Kirkland

The Truth That I Owe You: Understanding the Social Contexts of Race and Gender in Literacy Education

Date: March 2, 2018
Time: 4:10pm
Location: Rauch Business Center Perella Auditorium (Room 184)
The keynote is FREE and open to the public!


This presentation is based on over a decade of research aimed at understanding the complexities of teaching and learning in urban settings. The goal of the presentation is to raise awareness of the effects of educational injustices in the lives of urban youth, primarily youth of color, in order to interrupt cycles of miseducation. Focusing on the (mis)education of Black males, the presentation addresses the following questions: How do cycles of inequity (i.e., racial injustice) influence how, why, and what youth of color learn learn to read and write? How might critical educators disrupt such cycles to empower urban youth to transform their own communities, lives, educational destinies, etc.? In addressing these questions, the presentation aims to examine, perhaps more holistically, the peculiar deficit politics of literacy education, exploring instead the power of the spoken and written word, as it constructs and deconstructs opportunities for learning and liberation. In closing, the presentation will suggest that, from a liberatory perspective, urban youth take on new meanings beginning with a voice and a verb, where youth—when affirmed, valued, and respected—have the power to transform the world inside-out.

Dr. David E. Kirkland is the Executive Director of The NYU Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and The Transformation of Schools. He has also been described as an activist, educator, cultural critic and author. A leading national scholar and advocate for educational justice, Dr. Kirkland holds a PhD from Michigan State University.

A Detroit native, his transdisciplinary scholarship explores a variety of equity and education justice related topics, including the following: school climate and discipline; school integration and choice; culture and education; vulnerable learners; and intersections among race, gender, and education. With many groundbreaking publications to his credit, he has analyzed the cultures, languages, and texts of urban youth, using quantitative, critical literary, ethnographic, and sociolinguistic research methods to answer complex questions at the center of equity and social justice in education.

Dr. Kirkland taught middle and high school for several years in Michigan. He’s also organized youth empowerment and youth mentoring programs for over a decade in major U.S. cities such as Detroit, Chicago and New York. He currently leads efforts to enhance education options for vulnerable youth throughout New York City, and beyond.

Dr. Kirkland has received many awards for his research and educational advocacy work, including over $20 million dollars in research and program grants. He is the current chair for AERA Division G, and is past recipient of the 2016 AERA Division G Mid-Career Scholars Award, and the 2008 AERA Division G Outstanding Dissertation Award. He was a 2009-10 Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow, a 2011-12 NAEd/Spencer Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow, and is a former fellow of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Research Foundation’s “Cultivating New Voices among Scholars of Color” program. In addition to several other boards, he currently serves as a trustee for the Research Foundation of the National Council of Teachers of English.

Named by Ebony magazine as one of the most brilliant scholars in the U.S., Dr. Kirkland has been a pivotal intellectual voice promoting educational justice in the U.S. and abroad.

A Search Past Silence: The Literacy of Black Malesthe fifth book that Dr. Kirkland has authored or edited, is a TC Press bestseller and winner of the 2015 Daniel E. Griffiths Research Award, the 2014 AESA Critics Choice Award, and the 2014 NCTE David H. Russell Award for Distinguished Research in the Teaching of English. He is also co-editor of the recently released Students Right to Their Own Language: A Critical Sourcebook, published by Bedford/St. Martins Press.


Winner, 2015 NYU Daniel E. Griffiths Research Award

Winner, 2014 NCTE David H. Russell Research Award

Winner, 2014 AESA Critic’s Choice Award


“These remarkable insights make it possible for us to reject the caricatures of Black males so that we can see them as they are.”
—From the Foreword by Pedro Noguera, Executive Director, Metropolitan Center for Urban Education, New York University


“I rarely review books. I even more rarely review books in the field of education, as I too often find them to be lacking in creativity, rigor, depth, and analytic power. This book, however, proves to be a powerful exception to this rule. Finally, someone manages to link systematic inquiry to cutting edge theory in ways that illumine new possibilities for understanding the literacy practices of young Black men. But this book isn’t just about literacy. Kirkland also helps us understand what it means to be young and Black and urban and male at the dawn of this 21st century. Buy this book. Read this book. Share this book. Teach this book. Today.”
Marc Lamont Hill, author of  Beats, Rhymes, and Classroom Life: Hip-Hop Pedagogy and the Politics of Identity


A Search Past Silence urges us to listen, and by doing so, to make audible the previously silenced voices of so many young Black men and their families and communities in our midst. The poets and performers, the writers and troubadours, all those Black men who forge literacies in spite of it all, have never had a better narrator. This beauty of a book deserves to be read and reread.”
Sonia Nieto, Professor Emerita, University of Massachusetts, Amherst


“For those who don’t know that young Black males from the hood read—and even write, believe it or not!—A Search Past Silence will be a haunting wake-up call.  The book represents a crowning achievement, dazzling in its rhetorical power, captivating in its poetic eloquence.”
Geneva Smitherman, University Distinguished Professor Emerita, Michigan State University


“David Kirkland sounds the voices of six young men through his own poetic voice. He crafts words that bring readers into these young people’s lives as they try to make sense of the confusing, oppressive, self-shaping powers of race, gender, and poverty as lived experience. This is a moving, utterly unique contribution to our collective understanding.”
Anne Haas Dyson, Professor, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


This beautifully written book argues that educators need to understand the social worlds and complex literacy practices of African-American males in order to pay the increasing educational debt we owe all youth and break the school-to-prison pipeline. Moving portraits from the lives of six friends bring to life the structural characteristics and qualities of meaning-making practices, particularly practices that reveal the political tensions of defining who gets to be literate and who does not. Key chapters on language, literacy, race, and masculinity examine how the literacies, languages, and identities of these friends are shaped by the silences of societal denial. Ultimately, A Search Past Silence is a passionate call for educators to listen to the silenced voices of Black youth and to re-imagine the concept of being literate in a multicultural democratic society.