“What we don’t see, we assume can’t be. What a destructive assumption.” ~ Octavia Butler
“I am in the world / to change the world.” ~ Muriel Rukeyser, “Käthe Kollwitz”
“The events in our lives happen in a sequence of time but in their significance to ourselves they find their own order…the continuous thread of revelation” ~ Eudora Welty
“My deepest impulses are optimistic; an attitude that seems to me as spiritually necessary and proper as it is intellectually suspect” ~ Ellen Willis
All the selves I am are the places I’ve been.
Write You Are! represents the culmination of my pedagogical endeavors, education, professional pursuits, creative work, life experience, community engagement, and a healthy dose of inspiring vistas, narrowed pathways, detours, and left turns. Missteps, mistakes, and misgivings. Reckoning, redirection, and rebirths.
From a young age, I knew that my professional path would be grounded in service. It soon became clear that its vehicle would be language, but that its destination would arc beyond the spoken and written word to find more expansive understandings and enactments of self, world, and other. To honor this intention, I have consistently worked to build networks of revolutionary regard, mutual care, transformative solidarity, and inclusive community engagement. I have committed my life to dismantling racial hierarchies and inequities, interrogating and challenging power structures and institutional gatekeepers, disrupting narratives of deservedness and entitlement, reducing economic disparities, and closing resource and opportunity gaps.
My principal drive is to center the margins. Centering the margins means protecting the vulnerable, empowering the disfranchised, and breaking down hierarchies of power and privilege. It means listening in and speaking up. It means drawing toward and not backing down. It means raising my voice in service to others and helping find yours in service to self. It means seeking and respecting the varied sources of knowledge that fuel social good and sustain collective well-being. It means using my professional credentials and institutional access to dismantle the replication of systemic privilege and pedigree.
Centering the margins means disrupting the ethically corrupt practices and morally bankrupt narratives around poverty that belie our country’s mythology of material prosperity and moral supremacy. It means confronting and redressing histories and contemporary realities of dispossession, displacement, and discrimination. It means acknowledging racism as the bedrock of racial classification, racial violence, and race-based hierarchies that founded this country and continue to propel its institutions and frame its central paradox and hypocrisy. It means acknowledging the carceral system as an extension of state-sanctioned racial violence and the criminalization of poverty. It means divesting from an economic system that is anti-democratic, predatory, exploitative, annihilating, alienating, and soulless.
Centering the margins means building power from the bottom up and sideways in. It means elevating and injecting the energy of our youth into policy and practical reform. It means preserving shared (hi)stories and authoring new ones. It means agitation, provocation, and reparation. It means agility, tenacity, and veracity. It means caring, sharing, transformation, and renewal.
Centering the margins means NOW is always the time. And GO is always the word.
My process of discovery and synthesis bears the imprint of urban centers and wilderness, main streets and backroads, silence and shadows, skyscrapers and stoplights. A roving, critical, empathic, and creative eye has cast my attention to the shadowy and interstitial, to borders, edges, and corners. These frontier zones have afforded me new perspectives, vivified salient yet unspoken concerns, and materialized solutions unseen from other vantage points.
At an early age, I was exposed to the interdisciplinary model of intellectual engagement, an approach that revolutionized my way of thinking and learning about the world, and subsequently, writing and teaching about it. Fields of inquiry – traditionally bifurcated into subject areas and discrete cultural forms – were dynamic and interconnected rather than static and bounded. I zoomed in and zoomed out: seeking to pierce and plumb the depths, then surrendering monocular vision to grasp relationships and context. This fluidity of inquiry and interconnectedness registered on an instinctive level with me, and I embraced the dynamic process of learning and unfettered exploration as my own. Moving on to advanced study, then teaching, I have retained the desire to be ravaged and redeemed by wonder and wanderlust.
I graduated from New York University’s Gallatin School for Individualized Study in 1997 with a concentration in literature and social and political theory. In my interdisciplinary senior thesis, I examined how individual, social, and political navigation of race and gender is represented in literature and the visual and applied arts. In 2006 I earned a dual PhD in African American Studies and American Studies from Yale University. My dissertation explored the relationship between self and space, person and place – both physical and fictional. The study draws upon the fields of architecture, sociology, painting, literature, history, urban planning, and philosophy and focuses on the literature of Henry James and Gwendolyn Brooks and St. Clair Drake and Horace Cayton’s classic work, Black Metropolis. My interest in critical inquiry and community service led to the completion of a Masters in Library and Information Science degree from San Jose State University in 2016, during which time I honed my research savvy, resource knowledge, and attention to detail.
Our perspectives shift depending on what we are looking at and what angle we are looking at it from. I thrive on listening to new voices, locating the connective threads between disparate modes of thought, and blurring the boundaries to produce provocative questions and new understandings. This broad and mutable frame of reference enhances my ability to address multiple audiences and to assist others in doing so as well. I have a talent for moving seamlessly between the micro-environment of the written word and the larger context of its production and reception without losing sight of either’s distinctiveness. I bring this inquisitiveness and acute focus to explore the relationship between content and form, the alignment of authorial intent and audience, and other key questions that move writing toward precision and potency.
I am passionate about cultivating human empathy, curiosity, and connection, and I have served in various roles and environments to empower individuals through creative exploration and expression. I have chosen all of these incarnations based on a personal precept: I want my words to matter, and I want to help others make theirs matter too. In the classroom, on the page, in the streets, and in my community, I have attempted to forge words into an energetic force that both inspires and embodies movement.
I have taught Writing, African American literature, and Cultural Studies at Yale University and Wesleyan University and English at independent and public schools in the Bay Area and New England. I have worked as a grantwriter for a large urban school district with an ethnically and economically diverse student population. During this time, I secured funding for a variety of initiatives to update facilities and equipment, create professional development opportunities for teachers, provide after-school enrichment, and enhance opportunities for English Language Learners. I have also written grants and been the lead organizer/liaison for a free international literary conference celebrating the life and legacy of Langston Hughes, featuring theatrical, dance, literary, and musical performances on Yale’s campus with parallel programming and book giveaways at an under-resourced local public school.
As a teacher and writing coach, I facilitate my students’ and clients’ learning process in tandem with my own through conversations that challenge our respective interpretive and experiential horizons. Young people push me to ask questions that are unique to their way of looking at the world and to look for answers in places that are part of their cultural and educational landscape rather than the one native to me. Older clients bring the wisdom and wideness of experience to bear, conjuring futureworlds from bifocal lenses. Throughout all of these exchanges, I advocate for the importance of multiple perspectives and heterogeneous knowledge platforms and communities by encouraging individuals to reflect upon and express their unique stories and attune with sensitivity and patience to those of others.
Experience and error have been my most powerful teachers, intellectually and ethically. We learn from doing, and invariably we both succeed and fail in the process. We refine as we go – making adjustments when our methods or our mediums have outworn their usefulness – and we reflect on our experiences as they transform the ways we view ourselves and the world around us. This practice of consideration, both intuitive and learned, is catalyzed and sharpened when we are confronted with newness, with what is foreign to us, and when we face our own prejudices, errors, and inconsistencies. I have learned the most when I have been shown how much I still have to learn.
I believe that individual fulfillment and fortitude is inherently bound to community engagement and accountability. That economies of sharing are our truest economies of scale and sustainability. Mutual aid networks, both within and outside of institutional settings, build and preserve communities from the ground up and fulfill our innate needs for spiritual connection and life purpose. I am an ardent activist for the causes that matter to me: deeply affordable housing/land equity, ending poverty and disrupting narratives of entitlement and deservedness, participatory budgets, agricultural and food justice, public libraries and civic inclusion, youth empowerment and educational transformation, wealth redistribution and human resource allocation, reparations, and more. To push these agendas forward, I am an engaged and consistently humbled community servant in varied guises and capacities.
In all of my work, I strive to formulate the right questions, locate the pathways to their investigation, and distill meaning from the stimulation of curiosity, the cultivation of empathy, and the journey of discovery.
I have expanded the margins of my sensibilities, expertise, and experiences by pursuing varied forms of creative writing for many years. I devote as much time as I can to honing my craft and pursue projects generated by diverse and spontaneous streams of inquiry and inspiration. I am currently inching forward on five manuscripts-in-progress:
Fierce Illumination: Elemental Ravelings and Revelations
Flight of the Beautiful Days: A Chronicle of the Radical Women Who Transformed Bay Area Cultural and Social Movements
“Ain’t Nothin’ Wrong with the Way She Moves”: The Experience and Influence of Women in the Grateful Dead
Ivy Grows in the Garden of Eden: A Branch Leaves a Family Tree
An Apprentice to Words: Why I Write, Why I Teach
I seek to advance equity agendas and expand the multiplicity of voices in institutional spaces, civic forums, and individual consciousness. Please reach out if you see opportunities where I can be impactful in these domains.
Last and most: I spend as many waking and sleeping hours as possible in the outdoors and as few as possible touching sole to pavement and asphalt.
“The job of the writer/artist/organizer is to make the movement irresistible” ~ Toni Cade Bambara
“Rage for the world as it is / but for what it may be / more love now than last year.” ~ Muriel Rukeyser, “This Place in the Ways”
“Early on, I learned to disguise myself in words, which really were clouds” ~ Walter Benjamin
© Rachel Rosekind, PhD, MLIS