When Gloria Steinem tells you to read something, you should probably read it.
“If you ever doubted that Supremacy Crimes—those devoted to maintaining hierarchy—are rooted in both sex and race, read Pushout,” the feminist icon is quoted as saying on the back cover of Fielding alumna Monique Morris’ new book.”Monique Morris tells us exactly how schools are crushing the spirit and talent that this country needs.”
PUSHOUT exposes the ways that young Black schoolgirls are marginalized, criminalized and ultimately—unnecessarily—pushed out of schools and into unhealthy, unstable and often unsafe futures.
It’s a topic that’s been close to Morris’ heart for decades. She explored the subject in her 2001 novel Too Beautiful for Words, and again in her Fielding dissertation, “Conceptualizing a Quality, Culturally Competent and Gender Responsive Education for Northern California Black Girls in Confinement.”
Morris graduated in 2013 with an EdD and says that her doctoral research at Fielding “absolutely informed and contributed to elements” of PUSHOUT, which publishes March 29. We caught up with her for a quick Q&A just before she headed out on a book tour.
Q. What brought you to Fielding originally?
A. I was very much attracted to the community of scholars who were committed to social justice in education. I was also impressed by the caliber and diverse interests of the faculty--in fact I was referred to the program by a former faculty member that I admire and respect greatly. The flexibility of the program was also important to me, given my many professional commitments.
Q. What were some of the things you learned at Fielding that were useful to you during the creating of PUSHOUT?
A. My policy work with Dr. Lenneal Henderson and systems thinking work with Dr. Kathy Tiner were particularly helpful to my thinking about educational policy, as were the focused research projects that I completed with Dr. Kitty Kelly Epstein. Skills that I learned in these courses and knowledge areas are certainly reflected in PUSHOUT and in my ongoing work to advance educational equity for marginalized girls.
I also have to say that these three are among the finest scholars I've encountered in my academic/ professional career and I feel extraordinarily honored to have had the opportunity to work with them.
Q. What do you hope will come out of this book? What will it accomplish in the world, if you had your way?
A. I’m hopeful that this book will launch a series of conversations and strategy sessions to combat the manifestation of racialized gender oppression in schools (and communities) and to uplift the promise of Black girls as young scholars, critical thinkers, and school leaders.
Q. What’s next for you?
A. Immediately, I plan to visit cities in the U.S. and center PUSHOUT in the critical discussions that I hope will foster policy and practice improvements, as well as shift the consciousness facilitating the criminalization of our children.
Following the tour, I will continue to grow the National Black Women's Justice Institute, an organization that I co-founded a few years ago. Our projects are designed to: 1) interrupt school to confinement pathways, 2) improve the employment outcomes for formerly incarcerated women, and 3) provide technical assistance to organizations working to end violence against women in African-American communities nationwide. I'm focused on remedies—so I expect to be in this work for a while.
Q. Any other writing projects in the works?A. I may extend the epistemology and challenge myself to a graphic novel. Wouldn't that be cool?
We think it would, indeed. Good luck, Dr. Morris!