Theses Doctoral

Black Girls Living the Answers: How Young Black Girls Cocreate and Construct Their Worlds Through Participatory Art Making and Collectivism

Nicol, Maureen W.

Set in New Orleans, Louisiana, this qualitative dissertation study integrated case study, participatory, and ethnographic methods to examine how young Black girls curate joy, resist everyday violences, and promote well-being in their daily lives through the use of photography, Black girl literacies, and collective art making.

Given that this country sits on a national inheritance of anti-Blackness and misogyny—both amplified during a global pandemic, Black girls have been implicated in these oppressive structures during precarious times. Contemporary and historical events have demonstrated the precarity of the lives of Black people, especially Black girls. As Kimberlé Crenshaw (2020) shared, “If we are ever truly to protect young Black women like Toying Salau or Breonna Taylor, we must first tell their stories.”

This 6-month study inquired how young Black girls (ages 7-9 years old) become/are researchers of their own lives within the exacerbated social conditions of the pandemics of racism, sexism, COVID-19, and natural disasters. The participating Black girls generated content, art, and conversations from their lived experiences, much as Black people have been doing for their counter-narrative and truth telling. Scholars (Fontaine & Luttrell, 2015; Ghiso, 2016; Templeton, 2020) have documented the need for young children to find their voice to share their perspectives within the classroom space as well as examined the generative role of photography to foster inquiry among young children.

This participatory study documented how three Black girls in early childhood education engaged with their artistic research through the use of disposable cameras and community art spaces during a time of multilayered and intersectional pandemics in their racial and gendered identities. The intent was for this study to be about and for the girls and their families and their city, with a potential consequence of adding/initiating conversations about the creative journeys needed/possible of remaking (early childhood) spaces for Black girls with Black girls and their families who are living and thriving in complex and unique ways in a society that makes it hard for them to live fully (or with ease) and thrive effortlessly.

There were so many hard questions about identity posed to the girls during this study, and their articulations of themselves through words and art show how they are living the answers willfully and courageously.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Curriculum and Teaching
Thesis Advisors
Paula Ghiso, Maria Paula
Yoon, Haeny S.
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
June 15, 2022