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Double Consciousness and the Future of Service-Learning

Gabrielle Hickmon

maybe, if we do this right, twenty years from now students of color will know how to manage the identities and worlds they straddle in ways that trend more toward healing than toward “two-ness,” confusion, and disempowerment … [and] there will no longer be a “served” versus “server” dynamic …


EXCERPT

… we must attend to the ways demographic shifts at the collegiate level have changed the dynamics of the classroom … [and] do the hard work of ensuring that all students have access to and a positive experience with it. ….

… as a Black woman dedicated to community-engaged work, I have often felt a double-consciousness of sorts. … I have not always known how to handle the assumptions made about my connections to the communities I engage with, especially when those communities are made up of people who look like me. I have been conflicted about “serving” when there are members of my community who are labeled “those served” in the minds of some in SL despite their real contributions to their communities and the field’s supposed belief that all partners both serve and are served. As Du Bois (1903) wrote, I, too, ever feel my “two-ness.”

If educational institutions are indeed “central places where race is made and remade everyday” (Lewis, 2003, p. 11), then [SLCE] practitioners … need to make it okay for students of color to be their full selves … [and invite] true dialogue about how identity informs experience….

… maybe, if we do this right, twenty years from now students of color will know how to manage the identities and worlds they straddle in ways that trend more toward healing than toward “two-ness,” confusion, and disempowerment. Maybe, if we do this right, there will no longer be a “served” versus “server” dynamic, leaving students of color with nothing to reconcile [and] allowing for true healing and reconciliation across difference …

References

Du Bois, W. E. B. (1903). The souls of Black folk. Chicago: A. C. McClurg & Co.

Lewis, A. E. (2003). Race in the schoolyard: Negotiating the color line in classrooms and communities. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.


GABRIELLE HICKMON (gihickmon@gmail.com) is a senior at Cornell University majoring in Industrial and Labor Relations with interests in international education, service-learning, and Black collegiate students’ racial identity development. After graduation, she plans to pursue an MA in International and Comparative Education. Her career aspirations include working for the United Nations, giving Black students curated SL opportunities, and teaching college courses on community engagement and the role of education in Black racial identity development.


Interested in reading the full text of this article?  Click here for the full essay.

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One thought on “Double Consciousness in Students’ Experience of SLCE

  1. K.L. says:

    How might the concept of double consciousness apply to LGBTQ students who might potentially be involved in service learning? Is the LGBTQ population in the broader community even being “served” in the first place? Can SL contribute in some way to non-normative individuals feeling free to be their “true selves,” or do we need to start there before we can even contemplate the idea of a true partnership that goes beyond the served/server dichotomy?

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