Young Black Malesâ€™ Writing Workshop at UIC Spawns National Curricula
Tatum based both curricula on the principles of his African American Adolescent Male Summer Literacy Institute, featured last fall in a PBS special, â€śToo Important to Fail,â€ť by journalist Tavis Smiley.
Each summer, Tatum identifies 15 students aged 12 through 17 for the month-long workshop. He chooses students of varying achievement levels for their love of writing and empowers them to mentor each other as â€śbrother authors.â€ť Now in its fifth year, the institute has another mentor in Preston Davis, a 2009 alumnus of the institute who now is majoring in illustration at Northern Illinois University.
Tatum gives each student 15 books that â€śdemonstrate the range of writings by African American males who shaped Americaâ€™s imagination of itself and broadened the roles of black males across the landscape,â€ť he said. In recent years, his choices have included â€śBlack Boyâ€ť by Richard Wright, â€śThe Autobiography of Malcolm Xâ€ť by Alex Haley, and â€śHomeboyzâ€ť by Alan Lawrence Sitomer.
â€śI use the texts to show the power of writing prudently and unapologetically to mark oneâ€™s life and times. Students are then challenged to write for the benefit of others and themselves,â€ť Tatum said.
â€śViolence turns up in their writing, but I want to nurture resilience. I recognized the destructive power of violence while growing up in Chicago.
â€śWe ground our writing on four platforms: defining self, nurturing resilience, engaging others and building capacity,â€ť he said.
Writings by Tatum and current students can be read at http://aaamsli5.blogspot.com/.
Previous classes have traveled to Harlem, where young-adult novelist Walter Dean Myers critiqued their work. They have learned from visitors like Derrick Barnes, popular childrenâ€™s book author, and Clinton Smith, spoken word poet.
Support for the institute comes from Scholastic, Inc.
Excerpts from Tatumâ€™s appearance on â€śTavis Smiley Reports: Too Important to Failâ€ť can be seen at:
The institute runs through July 27, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the UIC Reading Clinic, Room L268, 1040 W. Harrison St.
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NOTE: Please refer to the institution as the University of Illinois at Chicago on first reference and UIC on second reference. â€śUniversity of Illinoisâ€ť and â€śU. of I.â€ť are often assumed to refer to our sister campus in Urbana-Champaign. â€˘