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October 21, 2015

Building a new relationship: Cultural Heritage Informatics and Black English

October 21, 2015 | By | One Comment

This post is dedicated to the amazing and internationally renowned Dr. Geneva Smitherman–Dr. G. To keep it brief, as she has too many accolades to list, Dr. G is the University Distinguished Professor Emerita in the Department of English and Core Faculty to the African American and African Studies (AAAS) Program at Michigan State University. Most importantly, she is the preeminent scholar in the field of linguistics, specifically, African American Language (AAL), Black English (BE).

Dr. G teaches an online class AAAS 891 focused on African American Language, a class I’m currently enrolled in and enthusiastically support. Believe it or not, African American Language does exist. It is not slang, broken English or some contrived dialect that spawned yesterday. Black English is a legitimate language contrary to popular belief. The history and many books on the subject speak for itself.

Post-Brown v. Board of Education (1954) and the integration of classrooms nationwide, the exposure to the tongue of Black America—Black English—“a style of speaking words with Black flava—with Africanized semantic, grammatical, pronunciation, and rhetorical patterns,” according to Dr. G, came this abrupt awakening no one was expecting. Since that time there has been ongoing onerous debate about the place of AAL in education. Both sides have vehemently argued for and against it. Maybe digital? Why not digital?

The explosion of the digital space has been the truce or the much needed answer. As a digital zealot, Cultural Heritage Informatics (CHI) could possibly be the solution to this decades old debate. How and why? The infinite lifespan of a project in the digital world coupled with the creativity and customs of CHI may make the perfect focus group to allow for AAL in the classroom beyond social media, blogs and the like. This relationship could influence pedagogy, epistemology and rhetoric. Ideally, this is the beginning of something revolutionary in education, Black America, CHI and the digital communities.





  1. Rendolph Walker

    Hello, It’s me! Language or a manner of communicating effectively has always been interesting to me. In the past I realized there were some cultural concepts that I could only ponder in a Jamaican dialect, given how I was interacting to a situation. I don’t think it was apparent to folks at time. I could only hope that a fellow Jamaican or a person of color was around that I could just look and to get the support I needed. Language is the conduct thought and our thoughts are I think based on our acculturation. In the play Top Dog Under dog there was a seen where they went back and fort with “You know” and with each exchange the communication change and got deeper.

    With that said. I love the fact that I have a strong understanding of the English language. We need to learn and understand it given the world we live in. I do wish we would understand that we live in two worlds like all ethnic American (Italian, Jewish and Spanish). We have to communicate internally and externally. We have a language/s and we must embrace it with out question and care not what others think.
    Louise Simone Bennett-Coverley or Miss Lou of Jamaica talked about this. Dem sa patwa is a broken language and it mix-up mix-up but wa more mix-up mix-up dan English, it have French,
    German, Greek and Latin ina it!

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