#CulturalCompetence: Crowdsourced Syllabus-Style Resources for Increasing Cultural Competence Skills

As a member of YALSA’s Research Committee, I have been particularly interested in combining my own passion for social justice work and anti-bias curricula with the aims of YALSA’s Futures Report to increase cultural competency among YALSA members. I have found myself particularly interested in a plethora of crowdsourced resource lists, often described as “syllabi,” for which many educators and librarians have collaborated. Using social media and virtual connections, crowdsourced syllabi provide online resources for building cultural competence skills in a variety of subjects. Crowdsourced syllabi are accessible, editable, and shareable, and can be avenues for important and empowering discussions, reader’s advisory, and advocacy for the teens and communities which we serve.

The following syllabi have resulted from various current events and an ongoing push by teachers, librarians, and scholars to disseminate diverse texts that can help to fight inequities:

#CharlestonSyllabus: Conceived by Chad Williams, Associate Professor at Brandeis University, and later maintained by Keisha N. Blain, the Charleston Syllabus is an extensive resource list that includes historic overviews, Op-Eds and Editorials, specific readings on South Carolina and Charleston, and readings on white identity and white supremacy. While the syllabus was created as a response to the Charleston shootings, the compilation extends beyond a single event to address issues of race, history, and regionalism. The syllabus also includes lists of multimedia components including films, music, websites, and teaching handouts and also has a section specifically for young readers. The originally crowdsourced document was recently adapted into a published book, titled “Charleston Syllabus: Readings on Race, Racism, and Racial Violence.”

#FergusonSyllabus: Marcia Chatelain’s article “How to Teach Kids About What’s Happening in Ferguson” became “a crowdsourced syllabus about race, African American history, civil rights, and policing” that particularly looks to teaching children and adolescents about race in the United States. Categories on the syllabus are: “Teaching About Race and Ferguson,” “African-American History/Civil Rights in the United States,” “Children’s Books,” “Community Organizing, Leadership, Activism,” “Educational Issues,” “Film,” “Media studies and Journalism,” “Music,” “Other Educational Hashtags on Twitter,” “Personal Reflections,” “Poetry,” “Policing,” and “Race and Violence in America.”

#LemonadeSyllabus: Compiled by writer and doctoral student Candice Benbow, #lemonadesyllabus was inspired by the release of Beyonce’s Lemonade album and aims to provide resources for discussions of black womanhood in the United States. The project is a 36-page downloadable document that includes chapters on “Fiction & Literature,” “Non-fiction & Biography,” “Black Feminist Studies,” “English & Critical Theory,” “Historical & Cultural Studies,” “Inspiration & Self-Care,” “Religion & Womanist Theology,” “Youth,” “Poetry & Photography,” “Music,” and “Theatre, Film, & Documentary.”

“Black women, spanning generations and class dynamics, used social media to suggest books, films, songs and poetry- primarily by Black women- that they believe best accompanied Lemonade and spoke to the essence of Black womanhood in its historical and contemporary manifestations. Compiled is over 200 resources that specifically speak to Black women from classics in fiction to Black feminist theory to inspirational and self-care guides. There are even resources for the young Black girls in our lives.”

#PulseOrlandoSyllabus: An extensive resource compiled by librarians and teachers, the Pulse Orlando Syllabus provides scholarly references, lists of popular literature, and practical resources for LGBTQAPOC community members. With categories ranging from “Latinxs Children’s and YA Literature Reading Lists & Resources” to “Self-Care” to “Memes” the (currently) 84-page GoogleDoc is a wealth of crowdsourced knowledge that seeks to prioritize representations of queer people of color. The syllabus is described in a “Statement of Intention”:

“This living document exists as a resource to understand our pain and grief, sadness and healing in the wake of the shooting at Pulse Night Club on June 12, 2016. We are living through each other and within our collective knowledge of LGBTQ2S and QTPOC spaces. We make visible the deep cultural heritages of Latinx communities among queer subcultures.”

#SlidingDoorsSyllabus: Created by Sarah Park Dahlen, Assistant Professor of Library Science at St. Catherine University, and compiled by scholars of children’s and young adult literature, this crowd-sourced syllabus builds off of Rudine Sims Bishop’s work on mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors as metaphors for literature.

“The purpose of this syllabus is to crowdsource books, articles, blogs, etc. that can be used for thinking about, researching, and teaching social justice, equity, compassion, empathy, etc. and anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-ableist etc. children’s and young adult literature.”

One other syllabus that isn’t crowdsourced, but still provides a wealth of cultural competence resources, is Professor Frank Leon Roberts’s Black Lives Matter Syllabus from his interdisciplinary course at New York University. His webpage posts multiple incarnations of the syllabus, including reading lists and weekly discussion topics, and multimedia components such as Ted Talks, news clips, and music videos.

Mary Catherine Miller is a member of the Research Committee and a doctoral student at the Ohio State University studying Literature for Children and Adolescents.

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