Decolonizing Ethnography: A Reimagined Framework for Teaching Radical Ethnography, 2024

Note: To Read the article in its entirety, click on the link above. 

“For a colonized people the most essential value, because the most concrete, is first and foremost the land: the land which will bring them bread and, above all, dignity.” -Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth (1961)

Field Notes: September 2017

My daughter and I were silent during the drive West on Route 2 to Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. Skeletal branches reached out to us from the side of the road as we passed, as if in mournful supplication. It was September 29th, nine days after Hurricane Maria had pummeled the island with Category 5 hurricane winds, leaving behind a trail of despair and devastation. We stared blankly at what had once been a vibrant verdant countryside, now a barren wasteland stretching into the horizon for as far as the eye could see. The entire experience was surreal. This was not the Puerto Rico of my childhood, and in the eyes of the people lurked a haunting grief…

Our silence, however, was not due to the sadness we felt at the devastation surrounding us, though that was profound. It was due to fear of what might await us when we reached our final destination. We had traveled to Puerto Rico to locate and rescue my 78-year-old mother. We had had no communication with her since 9/20 [September 20], the day the hurricane struck, downing the old and decrepit power lines and creating a communication black-out on the island. I had tried every means at my disposal to get information as to her whereabouts and/or condition, to no avail. The week that followed the hurricane was the worst—the unfathomable purgatory of not knowing. I could not work or sleep, I watched news reports obsessively—fearing the worst. Finally, unwilling to live in ignorance any longer, I determined to go to Puerto Rico to find her.

As we neared the adjoining town of Isabela, we searched anxiously for the ancient Ceibatrees (so highly valued by the locals that the planners of the expressway built around them rather than cut them down), and upon sight of them, still standing persistently, majestically, my hopes were renewed.

We had to stop several times on the road to her urbanization, due to closed roads, fallen tree branches and debris, and missing street lights, but finally we pulled up outside her home. The hurricane winds had buffeted the façade of the house, scouring off the soft pastel color paint. It now looked dull and lifeless, and there was no welcoming porch light to alert us to her presence within. The neighborhood was as silent as the grave. We knocked on her door and heard sounds from within—footsteps slow and careful, and then the door opened and my mother stood on the other side. She was almost unrecognizable. She looked small and frail. Her face reflected surprise, pain, and a vulnerability I had never seen before. Her eyes overflowed with tears as we hugged her. She kept repeating, “I thought I was going to die alone. 

I am ashamed to say that after the initial elation of finding my mother alive and well subsided,I grew afraid. Days passed, and we were unable to secure return tickets. I was on the phone with the airline, every hour of every day (thank goodness I had invested in a solar-powered battery charger). I grew afraid I might not be able to escape the island, the same island that had always been my home—my safe haven from the world, was now a prison. I felt vulnerable. I couldn’t imagine surviving without the luxuries I had grown accustomed to—clean drinking water, electricity/light, internet service, hot showers—for more than a few days.I felt ashamed of wanting to run out of there when so many could not. I still do. In the weeks and months that followed, I observed a gradual human awakening, from grief, loss, and despair to resilience, determination, and an urgent desire for change.

Using ePortfolio to Improve Retention of Hispanic Students at a Predominantly Black College

By Janice Zummo, Rosalina Diaz and Rupam Saran

Medgar Evers College

This study investigates how technology is being used to improve the engagement of at­risk Hispanic students at a predominantly Black institution through the use of ePortfolio in a co-­curricular context. Historically, attrition rates for Hispanic students at Medgar Evers College of The City University of New York have been high. In 2009, 5.6% of incoming freshman students were Hispanic. By Spring 2010 that number had dropped to 2.5%. Recently, concerned faculty have concentrated on improving Hispanic student engagement. In Fall 2010, the Education Department and the Association for Latino Studies Student Club (ALAS) were among a small group who participated in an ePortfolio pilot project focused on improving engagement, fostering integrative learning, and encouraging personal development through reflective writing. Preliminary findings indicate that Hispanic students’ connectedness to the College increased after participation in this project.

Alma y Pueblo: Educational Disparity of Caribbean Latinas in NYC

By Rosalina Diaz

Medgar Evers College

Recent statistical data reflects a consistent and alarming disparity regarding the educational attainment rates of Puerto Ricans, in relation to other Caribbean Latino groups. According to a 2010 Policy Brief, “Puerto Ricans face the greatest challenges of all youth sub-groups living in NYC.” The situation is further exacerbated for Puerto Rican women by higher than average early pregnancies, resulting in greater incidences of poverty and single parent households. My comparative research study, involving Cuban, Dominican and Puerto Rican women was unique in that it focused on intra-cultural diversity, and, not only produced new disaggregate comparative data on the educational achievement of distinct Caribbean Latino groups in New York City schools, but focused attention on the circumstances and strategies employed by Puerto Rican “outliers” that contributed to their academic and professional success, in hopes of providing a blueprint that might benefit educators, curriculum designers, and educational support personnel in working with Puerto Rican youth, as well as other similarly disenfranchised populations.