COUN·TER·SPACE  a physical space for the production of anti-oppressive counter-narratives
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As was highlighted by the DKPNYC participants in the conclusion of our 2012 study, youth organizing based on proximity remains important but is fundamentally different in a digital age. These youth activists demonstrated the ability to do the work of organizing and activism anywhere and everywhere. They push the boundaries of the local to consider online communities, cyber-actions, social networking and much more. All of the DKPNYC participants talked about information activism and connectivity. Collectively, the participants named the need for shared learning spaces to have time and a place to discover sameness, and strategize around strength, resilience and healing in social justice struggles.

There already exist groups that provide the space for youth to identify relevant sociopolitical issues and engage a pedagogy of critical literacy as they organize campaigns. This work is not done in a vacuum of radical activism. Rather, it is cushioned in the sphere of childhood and positive youth development. Such work requires a level of sustained investment to create a consistent space for critical literacy learning, to fund after-school and out-of-school initiatives around literacy, justice and equity that are not constrained by formal educative parameters. There is a deep need to build, fund and support organizational intentionality (O’Donoghue, 2006) around youth organizing and political education that is not indoctrinary. The next level of networked and resourceful community organizing with youth requires spaces that celebrate literacy, youth voice and public language.

So what is the prescription? Non-prescriptive activist thinking: building communities and identities around care and healing while moving away from all forms of violence (psychological, institutional, physical, emotional, psychic, structural). Of course we cannot reject our dominant contexts, but we can focus on expanding interpretations to yield a larger knowledge base. As Pinar (1998) wrote, “The crucial battle now for ‘minorities’ and resistant subalterns is not achieving democratic representation but wrestling control over the discourses concerning identity construction” (7). Our work is thus the struggle to counter-attack the power that resides in systems of technologies (and in spaces so diffuse as to have slipped under the radar of this memo), that actively seek to silence, oppress, marginalize and displace.

This requires space to counter-narrate. Call it COUNTERSPACE. As the DKPNYC youth activists noted, the future of online organizing lacks a physical space for interpersonal presence and embodiment. The creation and maintenance of a counter-space would fill the need for a locale from which to self-organize, a space to encourage critical literacy learning and allow a diversity of individuals to organize together. This physicality can take many forms: DIY maker media collectives, youth and community organizing workshops, popular education seminars, art shows, teach-ins, conferences, celebrations and a safe space for cross-cultural, inter-subjective exchange.

The work of critical literacy, and youth organizing, is to create a capacity for physical, psychological, intellectual and emotional border crossing (Giroux, 2005) that interrogates power for greater justice. This requires understanding and working together beyond identity and nationality. Against compartmentality, hubris, ignorance, hatred and negativity, it is essential to build community consciousness, raise the level of discourse, cultivate resilience and envision ways to re-invent ourselves beyond oppressive conditions. We aim to achieve this through radical healing (Ginwright, 2010)