Real Teaching Is Soul Work: A Story about Black Laughter and A Call for Spiritual Literacies - National Council of Teachers of English


This presentation sheds light on the spiritual component undergirding how Dr. Johnson engages in humanizing and transformative work as a Black male English educator. This conversation stems from his most recent book, Critical Race English Education: New Visions, New Possibilities. He (re)enters a moment from teaching high school English language arts to illuminate the importance of spiritual literacies. Dr. Johnson articulates the centrality of spirituality and how it can enrich the field of English education scholarship. As such, Dr. Johnson’s threading together of Black spirituality, knowledge-making, and teaching invites ELA teachers, English educators, and teacher educators to respond by exploring their own spiritual traditions, connections, and journeys to sustain liberatory, scholarly, and pedagogical work.


Monday, February 28

7:00 p.m. ET


This event is free to NCTE members.  Registration for non-members is $20.

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Dr. April Baker-Bell is an award-winning transdisciplinary teacher-researcher-activist and associate professor of language, literacy, and English education in the Department of English and Department of African American and African Studies at Michigan State University. Baker-Bell is an international leader in conversations on Black Language education, and her research interrogates the intersections of Black Language and literacies, anti-Black racism, and antiracist pedagogies. Her award-winning book, Linguistic Justice: Black Language, Literacy, Identity, and Pedagogy, brings together theory, research, and practice to dismantle Anti-Black Linguistic Racism (a term Baker-Bell coined) and white linguistic supremacy. Baker-Bell is the recipient of many awards and fellowships, including the 2021 Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s New Directions Fellowship, the 2021 Michigan State University’s Community Engagement Scholarship Award and the 2021 Distinguished Partnership Award for Community-Engaged Creative Activity, the 2020 NCTE George Orwell Award for Distinguished Contribution to Honesty and Clarity in Public Language, the 2019 Michigan State University Alumni Award for Innovation & Leadership in Teaching and Learning, and the 2018 AERA Language and Social Processes Early Career Scholar Award.

LAMAR L. JOHNSON is an associate professor of language and literacy for linguistic and racial justice in the Department of English at Michigan State University. He identifies as an interdisciplinary scholar-activist whose research and teaching make contributions to the fields of language and literacy studies, English education, curriculum and instruction, and Black education across the diaspora. His work explores the intricate intersections of language, literacy, anti-Black racism, Blackness, and education. As an equity-based scholar and researcher, his classroom reflects antiracist and racial justice frameworks. Johnson has years of experience preparing educators to work with culturally, racially, and linguistically diverse populations. As an award-winning writer, his work is featured in The Journal of Literacy Research, Race Ethnicity and Education, Literacy Research: Theory, Methods, and Practice, Urban Review, English Education, and English Journal. He was the recipient of the 2017 Promising Researcher Award, the recipient of the 2018 Edwin M. Hopkins Award, and 2019 honorable mention for the Alan C. Purves Award, all through the National Council of Teachers of English. His coedited book, African Diaspora Literacy: The Heart of Transformation in K-12 Schools and Teacher Education, was published by Lexington Books and received the 2019 Critics’ Choice Book Award for the American Educational Studies Association.