In a culturally sustaining approach that supports students’ right to their own language, there is, as Adam Banks describes, “a focus on African American students writing for their own communities, as well as for all students writing for multiple communities” (Banks, 2011, p. 31). In this section, we describe how to adapt common audience approaches, such as those recommended by the Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL) below, to such a culturally sustaining approach.

According to Purdue OWL’s Identifying Audiences page:

  • Who is the general audience I want to reach?
  • Who is most likely to be interested in the research I am doing?
  • What is it about my topic that interests the general audience I have discerned?
  • If the audience I am writing for is not particularly interested in my topic, what should I do to pique its interest?
  • Will each member of the broadly conceived audience agree with what I have to say?
  • If not, what counter-arguments should I be prepared to answer?

An adaptive way to incorporate an anti-racist lens is the inclusion of methods from the article, “Students ‘Write’ Their Own Language: Teaching the African American Verbal Tradition as a Rhetorially Effective Writing Skill” by Bonnie J. Williams. This article is useful since it provides ways of including the reader or audience while connecting this part of the writing process to African American Verbal Traditions (AVT).

Of course there are positives for using the previous model. These positives include having a set structure via using Owl Purdue as a baseline and since this platform has a familiarity with many in academia, it is fitting for usage and can be incorporated into the Bonnie Williams study since her framework implements thoughts of audience in the writing process with paradigms connected to their sociocultural linguistic roots in relation to AVT.

There are five main African American Verbal Traditions that can be utilized in a college writing format. These include Sounding, Repetition, Call Response, Narrativizing, and Signifying/Indirection.

  • Sounding functions as a method of communicating displeasure or disapproval in a loud voice. This is mirrored in academic writing by including Extra Declarative Sentences such as rhetorical questions or punctuating with an exclamation point (Williams, p. 428).

Example: “Shouldn’t students be given the right to discover and warm up their authentic voices before they add on other voices? Isn’t that precisely the philosophy we prescribe but do not practice? Do we aim to create humanoids who write in simulated voices, not possessing individualized senses of self?” (Troutman, 1997, p. 36 as cited by Williams).

Notice the use of rhetorical questions to capture voice in this excerpt.

  • Repetition is the use of words, phrases, or even sounds over and over again with the purpose of adding more effect to the wording or to emphasize certain points that are being communicated. Repetition if academically mirrored via Anaphora, Parallelism, Chiasmus, Antithesis, and Alliteration (Williams, p.428).

Example: “To fling my arms wide in some place of the sun, to whirl and to dance till the white day is done. Then rest at cool evening beneath a tall tree while night comes on gently, dark like me—that is my dream! To fling my arms wide in the face of the sun, Dance! Whirl! Whirl! Till the quick day is done. Rest at pale evening . . . A tall, slim tree . . . Night coming tenderly, Black like me” (Dream Variations, Langston Hughes).

  • Call Response is the method of including the audience as a participant through storytelling. Within the scope of academic writing, this can be methodized for Rhetorical Questions or even adding dialogue (Williams, p. 428).

Refer to the rhetorical questions used in the first example.

  • Narrativizing is when everyday conversation is added to the discourse. This is achieved through Narrative Sequencing, Anecdotal Leads, Conclusion, or Reflection (Williams, p. 428).

Example: “Then that little man in Black there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, ’cause Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him. If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them” (Ar’n’t I a Woman, Sojourner Truth). 

  • Signifying is a method of putting someone down in a systematic manner, usually playful. This is usually done with those that are close to you, such as friends or family. Indirection is meant for communicating irony or immense exaggeration. Both of these can be used for creating a Personal Narrative, Scare Quotes, or Rhetorical Questions (Williams, p. 428).

Example: “These sitters had been tongueless, earless, eyeless conveniences all day long. Mules and other brutes had occupied their skins. But now, the sun and the bossman were gone, so the skins felt powerful and human. They became lords of sounds and lesser things” (Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston).