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Problem/Purpose/- State the primary problems or purpose that the authors are aiming to address
in the video or reading as it pertains to education/schooling

Theories- Synthesize the main theories (the main idea) used in the reading or video. Ask
yourself, “what is the main idea behind what I am seeing in this reading or video that the author
is trying to express.”

Evidence/Examples – Summarize the evidence used by the author/scholar to test or prove the
theories presented in their work. (This should include direct quotes from the text or video)

Analysis/Application/Action – Show the significance of the reading or video and how it applies

1.Your philosophical beliefs about education/schooling in society
2.Your personal experience with education/schooling as it pertains to race and/or class issues
3.Actions that can be taken to address aspects of education and establish justice through a

fair/equity lens


Chapter 1: Purpose of Research
My Other Brother (MOB)

The purpose of MOB is to empower Black men and provide them with a counter

space and sense of community that will allow students to utilize each other as systems of

support to aid in on their success. The core values of MOB are unity, Black culture,

culturally validating identity development and K-12 outreach in urban, hood’

communities. Rooted in these core values, MOB objective is to develop students into

scholars/leaders. Furthermore, to establish a sense of belonging for urban Black youth

rooted in mentorship, culture and identity.

At the college level, California State University, East Bay (CSUEB) being the

first college partnership via student club on campus; MOB is a cohort of 12 Black men

students at CSUEB. It is a community of individuals that support, validate, challenge and

grow together. Components are regular intragroup dialogue sessions on Black identity

through forms of Hip Hop cultural expression, historical and contemporary racism

including internalized racism and contemporary issues in the community at the collegiate

level. Furthermore, components include graduate/professional school workshops,

financial literacy, leadership development, study sessions and “talk shit” sessions of

which students have the space to talk more loosely on contemporary cultural trends that

they see in the community that impact them on and off campus. These sessions on

campus have been critical in engaging Black men and women and establishing a sense of

belonging for them at the college campus, transpiring to their work and engagement with

their K-12 youth.

In accomplishing this goal, MOB partners with Castlemont High School in East

Oakland, West Oakland Middle School in West Oakland, and McClymonds High School


in West Oakland in developing a higher education access pipeline of which College

MOB student mentors work with K-12 student mentees. At Castlemont High School and

McClymonds High School in particular, MOB conducts college readiness programming

via weekly A-G requirement meetings, one on one and group academic check ins, after

school tutoring and personal check ins with students that focus on student core values and

identity development. In addition, MOB K-12 mentor program consists of leadership and

research work via weekly Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR) and community


As part of this, K-12 MOB youth partake in community-based research projects

where students analyze the existing issues and strengths that they see in their surrounding

Oakland community to impact practice based on how they construct knowledge. Most

critically, MOB mentors develop close connections with K-12 mentees and their families

to support students along their experiences in school, and their life experiences outside of

school to impact the holistic development of the student. These grassroots, community-

oriented approaches to our MOB work sets foundation for my passion to write this

dissertation. Furthermore, this dissertation is grounded in the experiences of myself,

student participants, and the larger Black community that we are members of.



This is not your average dissertation. This dissertation is guided and grounded in

solidarity with its population of study. It is a dissertation that is not concerned with

receiving legitimization from those that may or may not confer it. It is a dissertation

that’s principal concern is interrupting processes of power that have created Black deficit

frameworks that are described, investigated and contested within pages of this

dissertation. Most critically, this is a dissertation that privileges the San Francisco State

University Educational Leadership Doctoral Program’s mission of social justice and

equity over the sole purpose of simply obtaining a doctorate degree. The work of MOB is

not just “the work.” It is my life and commitment to justice via fighting for the

humanization of hood ‘Black males and working to create and sustain life-thriving

realities for the Black community overall. MOB, the sample of 12 students featured in

this study, is a small mirror of practice that we hope can inform the larger Black masses

and society.

Eurocentrism, Knowledge Production and The Myth of Objectivity

This work is rooted in the critical Ethnic Studies tradition. As such, it questions

the underlying and foundational assumption that knowledge is produced independent of

geopolitical contexts. Critical Ethnic studies scholars call for a recognition and critique of

Eurocentrism. For these scholars, the historical processes of colonialism affirmed Europe

and its forms of knowledge as the center of the world while simultaneously

‘subalternizing’ the forms of knowledge found in its periphery (Dussel 1995, Grosfoguel

2007, Maldanodo-Torres 2008, Brown and Barganier, 2018). For these scholars, the

social sciences are founded on the Eurocentric myth that knowledge can be produced


objectively. Instead, Ethnic Studies scholars argue for an acknowledgement of the social,

political context of the researcher and for a critique from the perspective of the oppressed

(Tuhiwai-Smith 1999). This dissertation is guided by these principles. By acknowledging

the relationship of the production of knowledge to relations of power, I decenter

traditional methods of research and engage the research subjects as active participants in

the construction of knowledge. In other words, I have sought to utilize a method and

theoretical framing that allows students to participate in meaning making. In this sense,

this dissertation is a collaborative effort between myself and other MOB members.

Given that this work follows this tradition, my dissertation differs from traditional

works in several key ways: (1). Conceptually: I take a fundamentally different approach

to concepts such as “success.” Traditionally, success is defined in educational research as

educational performance or achievement gap aspirations such as supporting the social

and emotional development of Black boys to succeed academically (Harper, 2016).

Instead, I understand success by means of students gaining a sense of pride and

confidence to resist and interrupt forms of coloniality (which may show up differently

from student to student). We view success this way given that this definition of success is

rooted in a Black community-cultural framework of resistance that places the historical

and contemporary struggle of Black oppression against White colonialism at the forefront

of our meaning making systems for success. In connection, we understand that Black

male deficit experiences within the school system is just a function of the larger

society/system that is anti-Black. As such, on an individual level, a student saying that

they felt more encouraged to speak up/assert themselves more in their classes or in life in

general based on confidence built through their MOB experiences is an example of


success when centering MOB outcomes through our historical rebellion lens against

racial oppression.

(2). Methodologically: In order to meet these stated ends, we utilized a Black

Emancipatory Action Research Approach (BEAR) to allow both myself and students to

make meaning of their interviews and data in a Black cultural way experienced by people

of African descent (Akom, 2011). (3). In other words, I have attempted to construct a

methodology that privileges the knowledge production of my participants. Theoretically:

Even further, my work is concerned with highlighting the people’s knowledge which is

the consciousness of Black students in alignment with the urban Black communities that

they come from. To this end, I have sought to construct a theoretical framework that

moves beyond those which tend to pathologize many of these groups. Therefore, Tupac

Shakur serves as a theoretician that can illuminate the experiences of my subjects with

more clarity than traditional education research. (4). Analytically: My data analysis is

grounded in the experience of my research participants and how the participants and I

constructed meaning making of data together in connection to how we analyzed certain

Tupac Shakur lyrics in connection to the data.

(5). Accessibility: This work is intended to serve as a lens that is for the

community and by the community. There are existing frameworks in academia that

appeal to the consciousness of non-Black educators that are looking for “manuals” and

“guides” on how to work with urban Black youth; for example, “For White Folks That

Teach in The Hood”-Christopher Emdin, who is a brilliant scholar that you will see in my

literature review section of this dissertation. This work, in contrast, is for Blacks of the


community overall to tap into their very own community cultural power to liberate


Groundings with My Brothers: A Long Tradition of Radical Resistance

Revolutionary historian Walter Rodney conveyed the meaning of Black power

through his scholarly work “The Groundings with My Brothers.” The Groundings with

My brothers is a call for unity amongst the downtrodden members of the Black diaspora

(from Black America to the Black Caribbean etc) to build unity amongst each other based

on our shared racialized experiences. In connection with The Groundings with My

Brothers, Rodney expressed that Black Power is a doctrine about Black people, for Black

people, preached by Black people (Rodney, 1969). The concept of “grounding” refers to

a collective process and space where Black people could critically engage with each

other. In these meetings, Black people determined the confines of the dialogue and came

to a political consensus on how to best address their issues. Reflecting on these meetings,

Rodney argued, Black people needed,

to ‘ground together.’ There was all this furor about whites being present in the

Black Writers Congress which most whites did not understand. They did not

understand that our historical experience has been speaking to white people,

whether it be begging white people, justifying ourselves against white people or

even vilifying white people. Our whole context has been, ‘that is the man to talk

to.’ Now the new understanding is that Black Brothers must talk to each

other. That is a very simple understanding which any reasonable person outside

of a particular ‘in-group’ would understand. That is why we talk about our family



Rodney’s work here is useful in three central ways: First, Rodney acknowledges

the entanglement of knowledge production and politics and grounds his scholarship

within his larger political project-Black Power. Secondly, Rodney turns the Eurocentric

myth of objectivity on its head by privileging subaltern knowledge. That is to say,

Rodney demonstrates that while dominate forms of knowledge tend to disguise social

reality, the knowledge created by the masses illuminates the true nature of social

relations. For Rodney, “the groundings” were the worldviews of the oppressed and their

collective critiques and analyses of relations of power. Lastly, and perhaps even more

important, these analyses are rooted in the experiences of the masses. The groundings

were a collective process. This is a major departure from traditional academic research

that views the people as objects to be studied, rather than actual moral subjects.

These themes are key to the theoretical framing, methodology, and data analysis

of this work. This work specifies the importance of making meaning of data, lived

experience, and construction of knowledge grounded through a Black power lens given

that our Blackness (in a White world) has the biggest impact on our lives. In connecting

Groundings with My Brothers to this dissertation, I used Tupac Shakur as an analytical

tool given that Tupac best conveys the struggle and Black empowerment in ways that

best resonate with the low-income, hood’ Black young men featured in this study. Tupac

Shakur’s construct of Thug Life serves as a contemporary form of people’s knowledge,

along a radical tradition of Black power. Thus, in tradition of Walter Rodney, Tupac both

resonates with the ethos of MOB and stands as an exceptionally useful lens to analyze

how MOB students navigate their experiences with alienation.


The Significance of Tupac Shakur

Tupac Shakur had a triple consciousness of love, street survival/thugism, and a

revolutionary identity of resistance grounded in the duality of his pre-birth and post birth

experiences along the struggles of the oppressed Black masses. To unpack this a little

more, we should start with examining his pre-birth experience of being in the belly of his

pregnant Black Panther Party mother, Afeni Shakur, while she was in a New York Prison

fighting a conspiracy case against the United States government. Tupac being born one

month after Afeni Shakur was acquitted of those charges in 1971, was born into an

indigenous, revolutionary world culture of resistance grounded in the practices of the

Black Panther Party (Shakur, 2019). Like Afeni, Tupac’s Godfather Jeronimo Pratt and

Stepfather Mutulu Shakur were very important figures in the Black Liberation

Movement. Moreover, Tupac was named after “Tupac Amaru II,” an 18th century Inca

Peruvian revolutionary who lead an Indigenous uprising against European/Spanish rule.

When connecting the circumstances surrounding Tupac’s name and being born into a

Black Panther Party family, one could see the shaping of Tupac Shakur as a freedom

fighter for justice.

Revolutionary practices of the Black Panther Party fueled the consciousness of

the Black masses in predominate inner-city communities of the 1960s and 70s (Shakur,

2019). As Tupac was born in, and in alignment with the inner-city Black masses, his

post-birth experiences continued to reflect the radical resistance teachings of his Black

Panther/Liberation Army family. This was also intertwined with the collective struggles

of the inner-city Black community of the 1970s-90s of which Tupac grew up in. In

connection, the urban Black community was not just a place of radical resistance, but it


was also a place of high poverty rates, drug dealing, drug abuse, prostitution, gangs and

violence due to systematic racism. Through Tupac’s experience growing up in East

Harlem/New York, Baltimore, and his relocation to Marin City Jungles/Oakland and then

LA; his influences were Black revolutionaries, street thugs, gangsters, pimps, drug

dealers, prostitutes, dope fiends and hustlers collectively as these people were part of his

day to day reality as a Black man in the urban ghettos that he grew up in. Also, his

mother Afeni who at one point was on drugs (crack cocaine) during aspects of Tupac’s

upbringing, remained a symbol of strength and love for Tupac that he would also

embrace within his consciousness and music.

As you can see, much of the framing that I am discussing here are experiences of

Tupac prior to him being the artist that we would come to know today as a legend. These

experiences of love, thugism/street life, and political revolution are grounded in Tupac.

Most important, these experiences help us understand the duality of Tupac’s lifestyle and

work that impacts generations of Black youth that also witness a duality of experiences in

their inner-city Black struggle. Tupac has many rap songs that focus on revolution solely,

love solely, and street life/thugism solely. He also has music that blends all these themes

together. The below Tupac lyrics are an example of the duality within Tupac’s work.

“Born thuggin and lovin the way I came up

Big money clutchin’, bustin” while evadin’ cocaine busts

My pulse rushin, send my pulse into insanity

they shot at my cousin now we bustin’ at they whole’ family

The coppers want to see me buried, I ain’t worried

I got a line on the D.A. ’cause I’m fuckin his secretary


I black out and start cussin, bust ’em and touch ’em all

They panic and bitches duckin, I rush ’em and fuck ’em all

I’ll probably be an old man before I understand

Why I had to live my life with pistols close at hand

they kidnapped my homey’s sister, cut her face up bad

They even raped her, so we blazed they pad

Automatic shots rang out, on every block

They puttin hits out on politicians, even cops” (Shakur, 2001).

In these lyrics, you can see Tupac’s expression of love and concern for the cousin

and sister that was brutalized, a sense of street life/violence via “bustin while evading

cocaine busts,” and revolution in the form of “putting hits out on politicians, even cops.”

This duality found in his lyrics is the reason Tupac is so relatable to the Black masses as

these experiences represent a duality found in the oppressed Black Mass communities. In

this case, Tupac is not important despite of his contradictions and duality. Rather, Tupac

is important because of his contradictions and duality.

Tupac was the center of much controversy throughout his legacy and his

messages of Black unity, solidarity, love, street life/thugism and revolution were

prevalent through the many brush ins with the law that he encountered. Furthermore, the

context surrounding Tupac’s death. Tupac’s many issues were connected to his fight for

liberation. Understanding the meaning of Blackness in a White world, is to understand

oppressive forces targeting anything that is Black and powerful. To speak to this: The

White controlled media in the U.S. painted Tupac’s image in a light that is different than

that of the people. Centering Tupac’s legacy and impact through the people’s knowledge,


is to pay closer attention to how the Black masses in the community are impacted by

Tupac Shakur opposed to how the media portrays him. WTupac Shakur continues to have

an impact on a young generation of Black youth along their racialized experiences as a

source of empowerment.

Positionality as Founding Director of MOB

To have a deep and correct understanding of what Thug Life means, it is

important to understand how Tupac Shakur (the person that diagnosed the Thug Life

Framework) made meaning of his very own concept which is connected to Tupac’s life

experiences. This collective understanding is important to building empathy amongst the

larger community that strives to be empowered by the said frameworks which insures

successful implementation of the practice. If a generation misunderstands and

misappropriates a culture of practice, the next generation can always get it right by going

back to the direct source to examine what the original goals and intentions of the culture

of practice was set for.

For example, there are some inner-city Black youth that steal from, and kill other

Blacks for the purpose of personal and street disputes between each other. Some of these

individuals think they are real thugs and claim to “live a thug life.” Yet, this is an

example of when a generation has the idea and cultural practice of Thug Life all wrong.

In understanding the true meaning of Thug Life via the framework and practice that was

documented by Tupac Shakur: One would understand that Thug Life would be the

process of those inner-city Black youth organizing systematically to spark revolution

against colonial powers, instead of harming one another.


In connection to MOB, I want to be sure to lay a narrative for the audience to

understand my lived experiences that set foundation for my construction and creation of

the My Other Brother (MOB) program. This is for the goal of future generations to come,

to at least understand what I was/am trying to accomplish with this work. This study is

the first attempt to see if MOB study participants make meaning of their experiences in

the program in the way that the author had hoped to impact. Through a letter that I wrote

to Tupac Shakur to center the Statement of Problem, I take you on a narrative of

experiences of oppression that I have encountered and witnessed within my community

and higher education experiences that sparked the creation of the MOB program. Most

important, this experience reflects how I was able to overcome through a narrative of

Thug Life that set the foundation for my MOB work.

Statement of Problem: Letter Narrative to Tupac Shakur

Black males in America are being systematically oppressed with respect to health,

education, employment, income, and overall well-being. The most reliable data

consistently indicate that Black males constitute a segment of the population that is

distinguished by hardships, disadvantages, and vulnerability (Noguera, 2008). This

especially connects to how Black males are treated in schools. Black people represent

five percent of California’s K-12 student population, yet account for 18% of all the

state’s K-12 suspensions (Harris III & Wood, 2013). Moreover, Black males still have the

highest suspension rate, are at the bottom of academic achievement, and are

disproportionately to this day, still pushed out of school at alarming rates (Duncan, 2002;

Duncan-Andrade & Morrell, 2008; Noguera, 2003, 2012). To be clear, the problem is

anti-Black racism and structural racialization and how it impacts young Black males in


and outside of educational experiences. MOB aims to reverse this trend by improving

educational and cultural content knowledge while fostering Black male student agency to

resist oppression. In alignment with community strengths, Tupac’s life work highlights

resistance, agency, and political contestation against structural racialization.

Dear Tupac Amaru Shakur,

I have always been inspired by your bravery that you have displayed in your life.

It has been your legacy, spirit, and strength that keep me pushing forward throughout my

struggles and accomplishments as a hood Black man in this “White man’s World.” In this

world, I have shifting moments of happiness in my life, similar to a roller coaster ride

riddled with highs and lows. I am happy when I am building with my Brothas in the

MOB, engaging students in my role as a College Instructor, and interacting with peers at

work, school or in the hood in West Oakland. These experiences are typically when I

smile. Outside of these experiences, I carry a burden of stress, yet pride and good energy

along this game of life that I am living. I try my best to keep good energy, although I

must admit that sometimes my economic and racialized experiences keep a stern look on

my face even though I yearn to smile. Below are some of my personal experiences

growing up in my community that provides a foundation for the strengths that are part of

my community that have helped me be successful. These experiences provided me with

validation of who I am as a Black man and a source of capital that helped me navigate

through the k-12 system that was set up for me to fail in the first place. I want to thank

you Pac because Thug Life came to be something that I understand and resonated with as

a youth. I never knew who Paulo Freire and “Pedagogy of the oppressed” was. But I, the

Black masses overall from the hood, knew who Tupac and Thug life was/is.


In terms of my background in connection to Thug Life, I grew up in the Real

West Oakland (not the gentrified West Oakland) with a culture of being tough, real, and

unified with a sense of community. Sometimes we took that toughness out on each other

(which is not a good thing), but the overarching, unconscious understanding was that

being a Black man meant that you had to be family oriented and tough-at least within the

inner-city hood Black struggle. During this time, the message was that you are a Black

man in this world and the system is against you. “You don’t need to be fighting one

another, you are brothers”—this was the first unifying message that I understood for what

being a Black man represented in 1999 when I got into a fight with one of my best friends

in elementary school. This was after myself and my patna (the other man behind me in

the elementary school picture below) got into a fist fight in the streets. When we came

home and Uncle Greg, my patnas father, found out; he explained that we should not be

fighting with one another because we are family and should have each other’s back.

Uncle Greg said that “yall are brothers.” I now understand that these implications of

Blackness in my childhood were embedded in your Thug Life framework from the streets

Tupac. I did not understand the Black Panther party connection to thug Life just yet

during this time. However, the foundation of “family,” “toughness,” and “community”

via Thug Life was understood by me as a young West Oakland kid in the hood.

I remember the police kicking Uncle Greg’s door in, in West Oakland. Myself,

my best friend that I got into a fight with and the rest of the family were in the house

when this happened. The police shot and killed our dog and vandalized the entire house

and pointed guns at all of us. They were looking for Uncle Greg and looking for drugs in

the house. Uncle Greg was not there during this time though. We were all about 9 and 10


years old when we saw this. I knew from this experience and many other encounters with

the police, including witnessing my mom deal with the police and the police putting my

mom in hand cuffs (taking her from our home and to jail right before my own eyes), that

the police were not in my community to help us. I felt that they were the “bad guys”

against us. In contrast, I always felt affirmed when I was running around in the streets of

West Oakland with my friends, my “family” from the hood/community. I unconsciously

grew to look to my own community as a sense of “protecting and serving ourselves,” as

the police appeared to be in my hood community to bring pain and terror against us. This

is critical Pac because your Thug Life framework was also birthed out of the inner-city

hood Black struggle, with police brutality and rebellion against this type of oppression

being a critical focus of Thug Life.

As a result of Black oppression from racist law enforcement as well as Black on

Black crime, being tough/strong and also having a sense of family with your people in the

hood and standing up for yourself is what street Black culture represented during this

time to me. This street Black culture, I would grow up to recognize this as Thug Life.

While this type of community education and knowledge was in alignment with our

racialized lived experiences as Black males of the hood (extending outside of the

classroom), this Thug Life identity was threatening to White colonial systems. In school,

many students that got suspended and kicked out of schools were of this perceived

mentality/identity. Students were perceived as “thuggish,” “aggressive or disruptive” in

the classroom as many teachers perceived us based on how we chose to express ourselves

and our values/behaviors within the class. Pac I know that you talked about these types of

issues in “Words of Wisdom.”


“In one way or another America will find a way to eliminate the problem, one by one.
The problem is the troublesome Black youth of the ghettos
And, one by one, we are being wiped off the face of this Earth
At an extremely alarming rate” (Shakur, 1991).

Our expressions as young Black males in school were connected to our racialized

experiences outside of school in our communities and larger society dealing with racial

oppressions. …

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