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Students learn how to articulate blackness

By Joshua Bennett
On April 18, 2013

Terri Pantuso, professor of History of the English Language and students recently attended the "Speaking While Black or Brown: Language and Race" symposium at the University of Texas at San Antonio.
 The students in the audience are studying Dr. H. Samy Alim and Dr. Geneva Smitherman's book titled "Articulate While Black: Barack Obama, Language and Race in the U.S."
 In addition to the book talk, students listened to panelists speak about research related to language and race and other topics such as code-switching among middle-class African Americans, language and biracialism, and secondary teaching practices with brown and black students.
 The students who attended the symposium were Marissa Berry, De'Andria Bogney, Chelsea Daly, Chelsea Dennis, Ariel Henson, Atlanti'a McDonald, and Rachel Weathers.
 "I learned a lot from it. If I could go back next year I would," said Berry. "I also learned quite a bit about interracial relationships and how people view black people in society.
 Speakers addressed issues of race and slang in previous and modern culture.
 "It was amazing to hear the different speakers opinions on the issues that black people face with language and I felt each speaker was credible and made efficient points," said Bogney.
Smitherman, a university distinguished professor emeritus, has authored, edited and co-edited over 15 books and monographs as well as over 125 articles and essays. Her publications focus on African American Language and language rights for disenfranchised communities in the U.S. and around the globe.
Alim is an associate professor in educational linguistics. His research interests and publications center on topics related to language, literacy, youth culture, hip-hop culture, and critical language awareness for socially marginalized and linguistically profiled populations.
The students were allowed to speak directly to Smitherman about the academic and life experiences in her field of study. The students were also given the chance to discuss with Alim about his research on pedagogical linguistic practices as well as his work with artists such as Common.
"I feel the symposium was extremely informative because we were always told that the way black people and Hispanic people talked and certain slang we use was wrong but it's really not," said Dennis.

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