Letters to a Young Activist (Art of Mentoring)

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Both of these authors illustrate the social complexities of self-development and what it means to be a queer person of color in the mid- and latter-half of the twentieth century—a time period when the social scourges of homophobia, racism, and sexism colluded against queer youth of color. In addition to showing their multiple origins and their titles, Lorde and Coloma further emphasize this underlying idea of mixing by blending various textual forms, thus fostering resistance to the idea that people must conform to limiting categories that constrain and demoralize vulnerable groups like queer youth of color.

As Lorde and Coloma utilize these approaches, they reveal the ways that queer youth of color are forced to reckon with technologies of otherness that Western societies have perpetuated through binaristic and rigid systems of gender, heteronormative familialism, and white privilege. By doing so, we will think further about how the texts show a lack of mentorship for youth and how this lacuna speaks to the need to build up a queer epistemological practice that empowers queer youth of color.

In tracing the origins of this mentoring lacuna, we must recognize the ways in which many queer people have been identified as a threat to youth as well as how this calumny has inhibited the mentoring that could have benefited Coloma and Lorde. Unquestionably, the phenomenon of disconnecting queer people from young Americans has a long history to it, and when we read the writing of Coloma and Lorde, we observe that queer mentoring is by no means a twenty-first century phenomenon, nor is queer mentoring an untested approach.

By showing how they connect with mentors, who might address the queer questions of youth, I contend Coloma and Lorde enact a form of social activism in an effort to both help themselves as well as inform readers about the ways that queer youth of color can respond to the pressures exerted upon them by the social forces of white heteropatriarchy and class-based oppression. How do I live honestly when my parents reject my way of looking at the world and relationships I desire? What do I need to know in order to confront and survive the challenges of homophobic violence?


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How do I deal with the intersections of homophobia, classism, and racism in my communities? This heuristic of broadening the center enables integration of resources for youth, as well as provides a means for researchers to theorize how queer youth of color benefit from finding supportive interlocutors who advise, assist, and listen.

This notion of familial broadening also allows for a rethinking of ingrained kinship relations as well as fostering forms of critical consciousness that are more attuned to the severe challenges that queer youth of color face. As Coloma and Lorde make known, some of their better mentoring relations were established with LGBTQ people who were met in social circles outside of their own families such as in schools or radically different communities.

Rather than maintaining the ingrained status quo that delineates heterosexual parents or leaders as being the ideal, Coloma and Lorde offer Other kinds of mentoring, which allow youth to create a broader set of social possibilities and a hospitable set of outcomes. Broadening prior concepts of mentoring is imperative insofar as queer youth of color seldom see themselves represented in the conventional modes of learning, such as family rituals, school lessons, extracurricular activities, and church-related functions.

In the same way, queer youth of color have reported that the people they envision as being role models, such as actors, celebrities, or public figures, are largely distant and inaccessible in daily life. Due to these obstacles, queer youth of color and their supporters are innovating to head off anti-gay and racist threats, producing queer acts of mentoring in a variety of cultural and social forms.

Such forms of mentoring range from actions that are carried out by people who resist heteronormative identifiers, to acts of supporting youth who self-identify in queer ways as well as educating readers through queer storylines. Hence to mitigate this deplorable lacuna of mentoring, we must attempt to queer and reimagine the praxis of mentoring and embrace a more inclusive notion of mentoring for the sake of enabling new futures and explaining the motley ways in which queer youth of color learn about whom they can become.

To develop such beneficial approaches further, we must consider how critics have contemplated these matters within prior cases and contexts. New and insightful theorizations of mentoring have been developed by scholars, such as Bernadette Marie Calafell, Krishna Pattisapu, and Kathleen F. McConnell, who have shown that professional relations in the field of education can generate a form of mentoring that resembles kinship, suggesting the social spheres of family and education can overlap at times.

Despite the transitions and efforts being made by many institutions currently, change continues to feel slow , which is driving current efforts to create safer spaces for younger generations such as queer youth of color. In these cases, the discourse and phenomena of queer mentoring offer critics a kind of third space other than those of familial or institutional spaces insofar as it exhibits the potentiality to foster a more fluid, inventive, and hybrid form of experiential growth. As Coloma and Lorde expose the problems of learning in formal locations of learning, such as schools, and more hospitable kinds of mentoring that happen outside of the home, they mentor readers to think analytically about how inculcated structures shape our opportunities in daily life as well as representations of that life.

And as they embrace the non-normative structures of learning within mentoring, they also embrace other non-normative structures in writing that create a mirror effect where the social experience parallels the textual experience significantly. In both their social and textual contexts, elements are mixed and brought into dialogue with one another, thereby creating a richer and multifaceted tapestry of developmental experiences for readers to contemplate.

Through this parallel, Coloma and Lorde create what scholars identify as hybrid narratives , which both mix writing formats and make bridges betwixt ostensibly disconnected cultures. Previously, scholars Jean Fernandez, Holly E. Martin, and Vivian M. May have theorized hybrid narratives as articulating personal experiences that consist of more than one cultural origin, as well as demonstrate a mixture of writing techniques such as critique, fiction, and poetry. While a small group of scholars such as Monica B.

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These dynamics come into play through hybrid processes, such as acts where people work together to help youth, who face problematically essentialist ideas like the notion that heterosexuality is inherent in youth. To develop this concept further, we can consider how this activism can take on an aesthetic form in writing and how this activist sociality may be capable of fostering beneficial outcomes such as inspiring people to take action, raising awareness about the impact of systemic inequalities, as well as revealing the social struggles unique to the intersectionalities of class, race, and sexuality.

These activist aesthetics of Coloma and Lorde enable youth to contemplate alternative ways of living, hence empowering youth to choose their own mentors in much the same way that queers often choose their own forms of family. The writings of Coloma and Lorde constitute what I call a textual zap because these unusual writings discard the human role of being a passive, reverent citizen, and they actively critique the heteronormative principles that contribute to the marginalization of queer people.

While some critics may question the effect that writing has on the larger world—where not everyone always reads—there remains an activist adage that suggests every contribution is a worthwhile one. In his short autobiographical narrative, Coloma explains how several mentors enabled Coloma to work through these tensions, empowering him to become a contributing member of his surrounding queer communities as well as make progress in his education.

As his narrative attests, these mentors enabled Coloma to find purpose and institute an activist sociality through his actions and thought.

Letters to a Young Activist - AbeBooks - Todd Gitlin:

Today Coloma works in an academic position, specializing in the research of education and Filipino and Asian diasporic experiences. Yet this is not to say that all youth must recognize the paths of Coloma and Lorde as being a so-called queer ideal. Rather, these writers signal to us that helping a youth to resist and survive the fiery strife of homophobia, racism, and other depredation is a necessary activist project that enables queers of color to devise productive future pathways as well as find a means to cope with traumas. To understand the activist projects of Coloma and Lorde, we can turn to fields of cultural and performance studies, which provide illuminating frameworks for understanding how activist narratives can be used and understood as providing a sense of direction for the future.

The work of the scholar Margo V.

Perkins again offers context concerning the ways in which activists have deployed nonfiction narratives to achieve political goals as well as to create a hospitable future. This research reveals how some activists gain an influential position and leave a profound impact on readers that can have long-lasting and life-changing results. Activists use life writing to create themselves as well as the era they recount.

Many things are at stake for them in this process. These things include control of the historical record, control over their own public images, and control over how the resistance movement in which they are involved is defined and portrayed. Much as Perkins suggests, Coloma and Lorde illustrate their strong positionality as experts and participants in the social issues through their narration of both daily activities and their long-term involvement in social justice movements.

Through such writing, the activist becomes an agent of change who holds the power to transform socio-political realities for the betterment of humanity. In the early twenty-first century, the scholarship of Krishna Pattisapu and Bernadette Marie Calafell vocalizes an analytical and reflective perspective on the robust potentials of relational experiences between academics involved in mentoring activities, demonstrating how collaborations, conversations, and relationships can enable youth to have an efflorescence of self-development and social advancement.

Thirteen of the 15 developed and completed a plan to close out the formal mentoring relationship with some form of direct communication between mentor and mentee. Weaker relationships tended to end for a broader variety of reasons, and were less likely to include some form of direct communication between mentor and mentee. Most of the weaker relationships ended because of youth or mentor dissatisfaction.


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  5. Weaker relationships were more likely to end due to dissatisfaction with the relationship on the part of the mentor or the youth or to simply dissolve. Further, while most of those participating in the study were disappointed or upset about the relationship closure, those who experienced clearer and more direct endings tended to feel more favorably about the process.

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    Those who experienced a gradual dissolution or had an otherwise more indirect experience with the closure process, on the other hand, were left with lingering feelings of confusion, disappointment, and sometimes even anger. There are a number of clear takeaway lessons from the present research that programs and mentors would do well to incorporate into their mentoring relationships, should they, for whatever reason, end:.

    So what does this mean, practically speaking? For programs, it may be helpful to build into the mentor training that, should the relationship end for whatever reason, the closure should be direct and clearly articulated to the mentee and their family. By incorporating this expectation into the program from the very beginning, it may be that mentors would be more inclined to utilize direct methods when closing mentoring relationships.

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    For mentors, point 5 is a key that extends well beyond the closure of a mentoring relationship. Clear communication in advance allows your mentee time to prepare for changes in the relationship and gives everyone time to process their experiences. This can allow things to end, if they must, on a positive note for all involved. To access the original article, click here. For nearly 25 years, MENTOR has served the mentoring field by providing a public voice, developing and delivering resources to mentoring programs nationwide and promoting quality for mentoring through standards, cutting-edge research and state of the art tools.

    Letters from Young Activists

    Academic Web Pages is the leading provider of customized websites for researchers, centers, nonprofits, and universities. Methods: Participants in this study included 48 gender-matched pairs, 31 of which were female. So, he asks the Letters to a Young Activist. On the Burden of History. On Idealism and Right Action.