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COUNTER
NARRATIVES

Authentic Storytelling

Curriculum

“Representation is a crucial location of struggle for any exploited and oppressed people asserting subjectivity and decolonization of the mind.”

—bell hooks, Art on My Mind: Visual Politics

NOTE
TO THE
EDUCATOR

  • Cultural affirmation and empowerment are central to Puente pedagogy. Counterstories, and in particular, the framework of Community Cultural Wealth (as defined by Tara Yosso, Vijay Kanagala, Laura Rendón, Amaury Nora, and others) offer a powerful intervention by affirming students’ strengths—exactly as they already are—and introducing a vocabulary that recognizes their cultures and communities as sources of strength. Students can understand that Aspirational Wealth, Linguistic Wealth, Familial Wealth, Social Wealth, Navigational Wealth, Resistant Wealth, Ganas/Perseverant Wealth, Ethnic Consciousness Wealth, Spiritual/Faith-Based Wealth, and Pluriversal Wealth are advantages they carry with them into education. 

  • Students need opportunities to read counterstories (stories that center the lived experiences and knowledge of historically marginalized people) and analyze the ways that community cultural wealth appear in the texts. Sometimes it is obvious, other times it requires closer analysis to notice how survival can spring from these reserves of Community Cultural Wealth. 

  • Once practitioners are conversant in Community Cultural Wealth, it can also be a generative topic to study or share with colleagues who work with marginalized student populations, as it can create a shift in how educators perceive students.

Key Term / Definition

Tara J. Yosso et. al define Counter Storytelling as:

 

... a method of telling the stories of those people whose experiences that are not often told (i.e. those on the margins of society). The counterstory is also a tool for exposing, analyzing, and challenging the majoritarian stories of racial privilege. Counterstories can shatter complacency, challenge the dominant discourse on race, and further the struggle for racial reform. Yet counterstories need not be created only as a direct response to majoritarian stories. As Lisa Ikemoto (1997) reminds us: “By responding only to the standard story, we let it dominate the discourse” (p. 136). Indeed, within the histories and lives of People of Color, there are numerous unheard counterstories. Counter Storytelling these experiences can help strengthen traditions of social, political, and cultural survival and resistance.

 

Citation: Tara Yosso, Octavio Villalpando, Dolores Delgado Bernal, and Daniel G. Solórzano, "Critical Race Theory in Chicana/O Education" (April 1, 2001). National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies Annual Conference.Paper 9. http://scholarworks.sjsu.edu/naccs/2001/Proceedings/9

Learning Objectives

These pieces have been selected as a way for students to: 

  • Understand that counterstories offer truthful representations of marginalized people and that majoritarian stories which disparage marginalized peoples are inaccurate and harmful.

  • Identify the forms of community cultural wealth they carry with them and those which they can foster in themselves and in their communities.

  • Make connections between the history and literature they study and their current lived experience.

  • Develop their own counterstories which center the experiences of historically marginalized people.

Essential and Guiding Questions

  • What is a majoritarian story? What is a counterstory? What are the different forms of community cultural wealth?

  • What are the majoritarian and counterstories that exist about marginalized communities in our schools? How can we center and continue creating counterstories? 

  • What are the different forms of community cultural wealth that you carry with you? How are (or how could) your ventajas/assets be recognized and supported along in their educational journeys?

  • How do we address anti-Blackness, homophobia, sexism, and transphobia in our communities through counterstories?

Suggested Activities

  • See Community Cultural Wealth Model: Overview and Praxis for a series of introductory activities and pedagogical suggestions.  Invite students to create slides/posters that define and illustrate each form of Community Cultural Wealth. Encourage them to include photos from their families and communities. If you are in a consistent physical classroom, keep these posters all year to affirm students in a specific and relevant manner. If online, use these images/slides on the course homepage.  [MS, HS, CC]

  • Have students read We Are Owed. by Ariana Brown alongside any of the recommended pairings from the We Are Owed. Teachers’ Guide. Discussion questions, paired readings/films/interviews, and assignments are included. Use as a guide to discuss how the poetry collection reflects a counterstory within Mexican American history and studies by highlighting the experiences of Black Latinx folks. [HS, CC]

  • Ask students to spend a week categorizing the stories in popular media about a community they belong to as either a “majoritarian story” or “counterstory.” Encourage students to explore counterstories not only about race and ethnicity, but also about religion, disability, gender, sexual orientation, and class. Post these in a classroom, padlet, or other virtual or in-person space so that the class can assess if these classifications are accurate. Spend time analyzing the significance and impact of these stories. Help students notice the “gaps” where stories are missing or are misrepresented. Invite students to fill in the gaps by writing a missing counterstory or researching and presenting on a missing counterstory. This can be combined with the following activity: 

  • Invite students to bring counterstories they find to share with the class. These can be in any form—music, art, poetry, fiction, non-fiction, film, dance, theater, etc. Consider providing students with a list of the recommended readings below and asking them to choose one to study and present on. You may incorporate a class trip to the library to help students select materials they are interested in. [MS, HS, CC]

  • Invite students to work on a long-term collaborative research project to develop a Composite Counterstory, modeled after those in Critical Race Counterstories Along the Chicana/o Educational Pipeline by Tara Yosso about community college students. Most likely, they will find that subjects are at an intersection where several parts of their identities converge. For example, in order to create a counterstory about a subgroup, such as undocumented Latinx students in community college, they would need to explore and research these intersections. Consider inviting a campus librarian to present to your class regarding library databases and suggested research practices so students are aware of the resources available to them. [CC]

  • In the U.S, there are many persistent stereotypes about Asians and Asian Americans, many of which made a resurgence in the wake of the pandemic. But even "positive" stereotypes have been damaging as they pit our different communities against each other. UC Berkeley Ethnic Studies professor, Dr. Catherine Choy says portrayals of Asian Americans as either disease carriers on the one hand, or a "model minority" on the other, constitute racist stereotypes that work hand-in-hand. She explains, "They are stereotypes of Asian Americans as either subhuman or superhuman, but never quite human, and certainly not American." Spend time with counterstories written by Asians, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders which paint more truthful and humanized stories about these communities. Be sure to check and challenge biased speech even when it is promoting a “positive” stereotype. Remember that all stereotypes are dehumanizing. Some sample texts to use for class discussion are included below: [HS, CC]

  • Teach Kehinde Wiley’s art as counterstory and guide students through the creation of their own mixed media portraits of people in their lives who deserve to be portrayed as royalty, but usually are not treated as such by society. Support the development of companion essays responding either to their own work, or about Kehinde Wiley’s artwork. A gorgeous teacher’s guide is available to teach about Kehinde Wiley’s art. [MS, HS, CC]

  • Counterstories are easy to analyze in film. Invite students to analyze the ways any of the following films function as counterstories and why the stories they bring to light are important. Consider the following written reflection/discussion prompt: Select one of the characters from the films listed above and analyze which Community Cultural Wealth assets are most prominent in that character’s life.  Discuss how the character uses and/or develops their assets through the course of the film and what factors attribute to those changes.  [MS, HS, CC]

  • Counterstories in history to study, research, and discuss as a class are listed below. We highlight these counterstories because LGBTQ+ individuals have long been at the forefront of history, though rarely taught or honored for their contributions. We invite you to teach the following historical events, figures, and concepts to strengthen students’ understanding of the necessity of queer and trans liberation. Even in our cultural, ethnic, and racial communities, LGBTQ+ individuals face homophobia and transphobia which must be addressed if we are to reach liberation for all. Spend time with the following films, books, and essays. Encourage discussion questions such as: What am I learning about gender and gender justice from these resources? How can I be a better community member to my queer and trans kin? How have LGBTQ+ individuals shaped history? [HS, CC]

Text Selections

POETRY
FICTION
NON-FICTION
AUDIO & VIDEO
VISUAL ART

Resources: 

Reference materials for the educator, background, databases
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