Post-Pandemic Possibilities: Black Women Youth Workers Reimagining Education
Ashley Smith-Purviance

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship

Award Year



The Ohio State University

Primary Discipline

Black Education
Even during the emergence of a global pandemic, Black girls were disproportionately disciplined, pushed out, physically assaulted, and rendered disposable during virtual and in-person schooling. Considering the anti-Black violence Black girls face in education, this study explores the spaces Black girls escape to for respite, healing, [educational] freedom, safety, and wellbeing within and outside of schools. This study examines the experiences of Black women youth workers who create educational spaces alongside Black girls outside of traditional school contexts. Drawing on articulations of Black fugitive educational spaces (ross, 2020) and Black girl spaces, this research describes fugitive Black girl spaces, or community-based and after school educational spaces that Black women and girls co-curate to shape Black girls? resistance to, and escape from the harm they face within and outside of schools. This qualitative project examines Black women youth workers? approaches to creating spaces that prioritize Black girls? wellbeing via various pedagogies, activities, and community-centered practices. This study also explores the potential of spaces Black women youth workers cultivate to remedy Black girls? educational experiences during the pandemic, and the possibilities for these innovations to help us reimagine education post-pandemic and beyond. This work incorporates narrative inquiry and critical ethnographic methods such as interviews, participant-observations, and document and digital media analysis to understand (1) how Black women youth workers are reimagining education, and (2) the necessity of fugitive Black girl spaces to lead us toward educational change that offers Black girls sites to center their joy, healing, thriving, and educational futures.
About Ashley Smith-Purviance
Ashley L. Smith-Purviance is an incoming Assistant Professor in the Departments of African American and African Studies and Women?s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at The Ohio State University. Dr. Smith-Purviance?s scholarship critically analyzes how social structures, educational policies, and institutions shape and reproduce harmful inequalities for Black women and girls. At the intersection of state violence and school discipline, her work examines the various forms of punishment, anti-Blackness, and gender-based violence Black girls experience in schools and society. Dr. Smith-Purviance?s research also explores alternative educational spaces, also known as Black girl spaces, created by and for Black girls. As a community-engaged scholar, Dr. Smith-Purviance has co-created various Black girl spaces alongside Black girls and women. Informed by her community-engaged work, her scholarship explores the necessity of Black girl spaces within and outside of schools that center Black girls? exploration and celebration of their identities, moments of joy, and acts of refusal to the harm and violence they often navigate. Her work has been published in peer-reviewed journals such as Feminist Studies and The Journal of Negro Education. She was also a recipient of the 2019 National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation Dissertation Fellowship and has since received numerous awards for her scholarship and community-engaged work. Dr. Smith-Purviance earned her doctorate in Educational Policy Studies with a minor in Gender and Women?s Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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