Keynote Speakers


Dr. Elaine Richardson
Professor of Literacy Studies, The Ohio State University

“Our Literacies Matter: Reading and Writing the World Through the Lives of Black Women and Girls”

This work grows out of an Afterschool Club, which I founded and directed, for Black girls at a predominantly Black middle school in Columbus, Ohio for five years, which focused upon a social literacies approach to critical transformative literacy development centered in the lives, literacies and rhetorical history of Black girls and women in the United States. This work seeks to engender literacy education for Black girls and women, through what might be called a Hiphop Feminist literacies approach. In my view, this is a necessary and important endeavor, inviting us to invest in girls’ literacies for brave new worlds of critical collective consciousness and movement for social justice, as opposed to schooling them to literacy for compliance with larger systems of patriarchal domination, social stratification, and individualism.  I strive to center the girls’ stories, incorporating voices of their mothers, women in our communities, my own story, and the voices of scholars, to illuminate our aspirations, build problem solving skills, promote strong knowledge of self, and equip us with strategies to avoid raced and gendered societal pitfalls. I argue that these issues are central to a meaningful and empowered education while they are generally marginalized in today’s classrooms across the country.  The club provided space to examine what it is that girls (and women–myself included) learn about themselves and the world through interacting with and producing and or analyzing African American cultural arts, digital texts, news media, documentaries, music videos, viral videos, short literature pieces focused upon contemporary and historic Black women and girls, using this material to support our critical reading, thinking, and composing for social change by addressing social ills such as sexism, racism, social inequality, through various forms of creative expression. This work took up the most progressive ideas from community activists, culturally relevant educators, scholar activists, and critical teaching artists, who intermingle popular culture and the struggle for Black Lives for critical literacy education, community and coalition building, and social action.

BIO: Cleveland, Ohio native, Dr. Elaine Richardson is currently Professor of Literacy Studies at The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, where she teaches in the Department of Teaching and Learning. Her research interests include the liberation and critical literacy education of people of the Black African Diaspora.  Her books include African American Literacies, (2003, Routledge), focusing on teaching writing from the point of view of African American Language and Literacy traditions; Hiphop Literacies (2006 Routledge) is a study of Hiphop language use as an extension of Black folk traditions.  Her urban education memoir, PHD (Po H# on Dope) to PhDHow Education Saved My Life, (2013, New City Community Press) chronicles her life from drugs and the street life to award-winning scholar, university professor, and art activist.  Richardson has also co-edited two volumes on African American rhetorical theory, Understanding African American Rhetoric: Classical Origins to Contemporary Innovations (2003, Routledge) and African American Rhetoric(s): Interdisciplinary Perspectives (2004, Southern Illinois University Press), and one volume on Hiphop Feminism—Home Girls Make Some Noise (2007, Parker Publishing).

Among her many awards, in 2004, she was Fulbright lecturing/researcher in the department of Literatures in English at the University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica; Who’s Who Columbus 2013, 2014, 2015; National Council of Negro Women, Community Service Award, 2012; Outstanding Woman of Columbus, 2011; Cleveland State University Distinguished Alumni, 2007, and more.  She serves as Co-Chair of the Black Caucus for the The Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC).

Dr. Richardson is the founder of The Ohio State University Hiphop Literacies Conference, as well as the nascent non-profit Education Foundation for Freedom, focusing on educational empowerment of women and girls.  Richardson, aka Dr. E is also a recording artist and performer, using her voice on behalf of those who may be down, but not out!  Of her urban education memoir, PHD to Ph.D.: How Education Saved My Life, Professor Ted Lardner writes: “If Zora Neale Hurston had a god-daughter, she could be Elaine Richardson:  on so many paths, she comes to these pages a deep student of life–the one who studies it up close, unguarded, and, with a musician’s ear for the song that lives in all of her experience, brings home its truths in their fearsome and freeing power. This book, like the life it describes, is a work of spirit Richardson records for us, another way to talk to, and talk about, God.”  For more on Dr. E visit:


Ellen Cushman

Dr. Ellen Cushman
Associate Dean of Academic Affairs, Diversity and Inclusion, Northeastern University

“Place and Relationships in Community Writing”
The Cherokee word for school, ᏗᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ (dideloquasdi), roughly translates to ‘the place where they learn.’ It illustrates two concepts key to the learning that unfolds in community writing projects: place and relationships. In this address, I’ll draw on a number of Cherokee precepts that help us understand how place and relationships factor centrally into community writing projects. Community writing as a discipline pays particularly close attention to relationships and place, or networks and ecologies, in efforts designed to help communities and students write themselves together. Where we learn together, I’ll argue, we create peoplehood and perseverance.

BIO: As a literacy scholar, Dr. Ellen Cushman’s work unites institutional and community-based meaning making practices, often through activist research, teaching public engagement courses, and summer workshops with youth and teens. As a Cherokee Nation citizen, Dr. Cushman’s professional work stems from a Cherokee ethic of reciprocity ᏕᏣᏓᎵᎨᎤᏗᏍᎨᏍᏗ (responsibility for each other). Her research focuses on the expressive tools that people use in their everyday fights for resources, respect, and social change. With her tribe she is developing a Digital Archive for Ojibwe and Cherokee Manuscript Translation that aims to develop an online resource to support the translation process of American Indian manuscripts housed in museums and archives around the country. This project was generously supported with an Institute for Museums and Library Services Sparks! Ignition Grant and is part of ongoing research project in support of language perseverance and decolonial life ways.

Cushman’s early work in literacy studies earned both in 1997 the National Council of Teachers of English CCCC James Berlin Outstanding Dissertation of the Year Award and the Richard Braddock Award. This activist ethnographic research focused on a number of families, particularly the Cadenses, living in a medium-sized, inner city in upstate New York (see The Struggle and the Tools: Oral and Literate Strategies in an Inner City Community, SUNY 1998). Her subsequent research and teaching explored the idea of literacy and rhetoric scholar as a public intellectual, one who weaves the roles of research, teaching, and service in an effort to address needs identified by community members and teachers. To develop this line of research on community literacy programs and service learning classes, she has published research from her own public engagement classes, essays on the changing shape of academic knowledge making, and essays on the nature of meaning making with various media and across languages.  Her book, The Cherokee Syllabary: Writing the People’s Perseverance (paperback, Oklahoma UP 2012) was based on six years of ethnohistorical research with her tribe. It received Honorable Mention for the 2012 MLA Mina P. Shaughnessey Prize and was selected as an Outstanding Academic Title by Choice. The book explores the evolution and historical importance of the Cherokee writing system.