BRIC: Cite Black Women

Group Members: Katy Dichter, Althea Lazzaro, Kaitlin McClanahan, Joel Shaver, Libby Whitley,

This year, the English Department has adopted new outcomes for their English 102 course. The department is assessing a piece of one of their outcomes for this year’s “ensure learning” process. The piece of the outcome that the department is assessing reads: “Understand how power shapes which sources and voices are amplified and how to rebalance power by incorporating marginalized sources and voices into students’ compositions.” Several efforts are underway to create lessons and assessments to support this outcome. The library was contacted to assist in this work, as librarians typically teach between 2 and 4 workshops for every English 102 section. During an English meeting in fall 2021, Katy Dichter and Althea Lazzaro presented a nascent lesson plan based on the Cite Black Women movement. At the same meeting Joel Shaver, Libby Whitley, and Kaitlin McClanahan also presented a lesson that they were working on about charting sources to support the same outcome.

After this meeting, the 5 of us discussed the idea of doing collaborative study to deepen our understanding of the marginalization of voices and perspectives in academic scholarship. We decided to read sources from the bibliography of “Cite Black Women: A Critical Praxis (A Statement)” published in Feminist Anthropology to respond to the statement’s call to:

Read Black women’s work. Read Black women’s scholarship broadly. Seek out new authors and new texts; engage in multiple forms of knowledge production. Familiarize yourself with the bodies of literature and creative work that Black women have produced and reflect deeply on the contributions that they make. Black women publish in every area imaginable. All you have to do is find us. (4)

We began our study with the statement itself. During our 5 meetings we read,

  • 1.     Smith, C. A., Williams, E. L., Wadud, I. A., Pirtle, W. N., & Cite Black Women Collective. 2021. Cite Black women: A critical praxis (a statement). Feminist Anthropology, 2(1), 10-17.
  • 2.     Combahee River Collective. 2000 [1977].“The Combahee River Collective Statement.” In Home Girls: A Black Feminist
    Anthology, edited by Barbara Smith, 264-274. Rutgers University Press: New Brunswick.
  • 3.     Bailey, M., and Trudy. 2018. “On Misogynoir: Citation, Erasure and Plagiarism.” Feminist Media Studies 18 (4): 762-68.
  • 4.     Part 1: Collins, P. H.. 1991. Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment. New York:
  • 5.     Part 2: Collins, P. H.. 1991. Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment. New York:

What emerged from our reading and discussion was a reorientation of how we think about plagiarism, types of sources appropriate for academic research, and the idea of relationality in research.

This study inspired work on several lessons. Language from the “Critical Praxis (Statement)” made its way into modules for English 102 and a recording of a discussion between Althea Lazzaro and Laura Sinai that were used in other English faculty’s courses. Libby Whitley created a lesson using the film Without A Whisper about the exclusion of oral histories from written histories of the women’s movement of the 19th century inspired by reading from Patria Hill Collins on the blues tradition in Black Women’s self-definition. Examples from “Mysogynoir” will be incorporated into these faculty’s discussions of plagiarism. Joel Shaver and Kaitlin McClanahan are considering how to use the ideas of relationality and the relationship of knowledge creation found in the Combahee River Collective’s statement and the work of Patricia Hill Collins– Especially in the research proposal part of the project, when students are assessing their potential topic and their own positionality.

Katy Dichter and Althea Lazzaro have revised their initial 2 part lesson plan on the Cite Black Women movement with new examples, and quotations from these 5 readings, in addition to research that supports claims of exclusion in citation practices.

While each of us were moved and motivated by the ideas of the original “Cite Black Women” statement, the process of reading the works that the statement drew from will allow us to teach these concepts in a richer and truer way. It also felt important, as we are teaching the statement with students, to have practiced what the statement suggests as a reparative approach to the systematic exclusion of Black women’s voices in academia: to “read Black women’s work.” While all of us have practiced this in the past, doing it together in a systematic, intentional way—in the way we will be asking students to do it when we teach the statement—built an internal knowledge of why we are asking students to do this, and how, exactly, it will enrich their research.

Submitted by Althea Lazzaro (faculty lead), Faculty Librarian, Seattle Central College