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2016 Keynote: Dr. David E. Kirkland

Executive Director, NYU Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity & The Transformation of Schools

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Dr. David E. Kirkland is the Executive Director of The NYU Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and The Transformation of Schools. He is also an activist and educator, cultural critic and author. Dr. Kirkland earned his PhD from Michigan State University and his JD from the University of Michigan.

A Detroit native, his transdisciplinary scholarship explores intersections among race, gender, and education. With many groundbreaking publications to his credit, he has analyzed the cultures, languages, and texts of urban youth, using critical literary, ethnographic, and sociolinguistic research methods to answer complex questions at the center of equity and social justice in education.

Dr. Kirkland taught middle and high school for several years in Michigan. He’s also organized youth empowerment and youth mentoring programs for over a decade in cities such as Detroit, Chicago and New York. He currently leads efforts to enhance education options for vulnerable youth throughout New York City, particularly in the South Bronx.

Dr. Kirkland has received many awards for his research and educational activism, including the 2016 AERA Division G Mid-Career Scholars Award, the 2008 AERA Division G Outstanding Dissertation Award. He was a 2009-10 Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow, a 2011-12 NAEd/Spencer Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow, and is a former fellow of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Research Foundation's “Cultivating New Voices among Scholars of Color” program.

A Search Past Silence: The Literacy of Black Males, the fifth book that Dr. Kirkland has authored, is a TC Press bestseller and winner of the 2015 Daniel E. Griffiths Research Award, the 2014 AESA Critics Choice Award, and the 2014 NCTE David H. Russell Award for Distinguished Research in the Teaching of English. He is also co-editor of the newly released Students Right to Their Own Language, a critical sourcebook published by Bedford/St. Martins Press.

Named by Ebony magazine as one of the most brilliant brothas in the US, Dr. Kirkland has been a pivot intellectual voice behind the Black Lives Matter Movement.


“These remarkable insights make it possible for us to reject the caricatures of Black males so that we can see them as they are.” —Foreword by Pedro Noguera, Executive Director, Metropolitan Center for Urban Education, New York University

“I rarely review books. I even more rarely review books in the field of education, as I too often find them to be lacking in creativity, rigor, depth, and analytic power. This book, however, proves to be a powerful exception to this rule. Finally, someone manages to link systematic inquiry to cutting edge theory in ways that illumine new possibilities for understanding the literacy practices of young Black men. But this book isn't just about literacy. Kirkland also helps us understand what it means to be young and Black and urban and male at the dawn of this 21st century. Buy this book. Read this book. Share this book. Teach this book. Today.” —Marc Lamont Hill, author of  Beats, Rhymes, and Classroom Life: Hip-Hop Pedagogy and the Politics of Identity

“A Search Past Silence urges us to listen, and by doing so, to make audible the previously silenced voices of so many young Black men and their families and communities in our midst. The poets and performers, the writers and troubadours, all those Black men who forge literacies in spite of it all, have never had a better narrator. This beauty of a book deserves to be read and reread.”—Sonia Nieto, Professor Emerita, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

“For those who don’t know that young Black males from the hood read—and even write, believe it or not!—A Search Past Silence will be a haunting wake-up call.  The book represents a crowning achievement, dazzling in its rhetorical power, captivating in its poetic eloquence.”—Geneva Smitherman, University Distinguished Professor Emerita, Michigan State University

“David Kirkland sounds the voices of six young men through his own poetic voice. He crafts words that bring readers into these young people’s lives as they try to make sense of the confusing, oppressive, self-shaping powers of race, gender, and poverty as lived experience. This is a moving, utterly unique contribution to our collective understanding.” —Anne Haas Dyson, Professor, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

This beautifully written book argues that educators need to understand the social worlds and complex literacy practices of African-American males in order to pay the increasing educational debt we owe all youth and break the school-to-prison pipeline. Moving portraits from the lives of six friends bring to life the structural characteristics and qualities of meaning-making practices, particularly practices that reveal the political tensions of defining who gets to be literate and who does not. Key chapters on language, literacy, race, and masculinity examine how the literacies, languages, and identities of these friends are shaped by the silences of societal denial. Ultimately, A Search Past Silence is a passionate call for educators to listen to the silenced voices of Black youth and to re-imagine the concept of being literate in a multicultural democratic society.

Winner, '15 NYU Daniel E. Griffiths Research Award
Winner, '14 NCTE David H. Russell Research Award
Winner, '14 AESA Critic's Choice Award


2016 Plenary Panel: Reach One Teach One: Uniting Our Voices for Representation

Dr. Monique Lane
Clint Smith
Dr. Carla Beckford-Ogunleye
Urban Assembly of Applied Math & Science, Bronx, NY