We Can Speak for Ourselves

Parent Involvement and Ideologies of Black Mothers in Chicago

  • Billye Sankofa Waters

Part of the Breakthroughs in the Sociology of Education book series (FAAI)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xxii
  2. Billye Sankofa Waters
    Pages 1-16
  3. Billye Sankofa Waters
    Pages 17-27
  4. Billye Sankofa Waters
    Pages 29-43
  5. Billye Sankofa Waters
    Pages 45-77
  6. Billye Sankofa Waters
    Pages 79-91
  7. Billye Sankofa Waters
    Pages 93-98
  8. Back Matter
    Pages 115-145

About this book


This work is an intervention of self-representation that explores experiences of five Black mothers of the same Chicago elementary school with respect to their relationship with the author – a qualitative researcher – over a period of two years. Black feminist epistemology is the framework that directed this project, fieldwork, and interpretation of the findings. Additionally, this work employs tools of poetry, counternarratives, and critical ethnography. 

Billye Sankofa Waters reiterates the plaintive lament of the mothers of 1970s Boston when they said, ‘When we fight about education we’re fighting for our lives.’ This story of parents in Chicago is powerful, poignant, and oh so familiar. This is a must read!” – Gloria Ladson-Billings, Kellner Family Distinguished Chair in Urban Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison

the ways that Black mothers come to know and participate in their children’s education. We Can Speak for Ourselves plumbs Black feminist epistemology and critical theory to create a new model that reimagines the critical terrain of both public and private African American female ‘motherwork.’ It is intersectionally deft in how it attends to both structural issues of inequality and intragroup negotiation of identity. This book is bold, well-researched and an important contribution to the fields of Education, Sociology, Women’s and Gender Studies and Public Policy.” – Michele T. Berger, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; author of Workable Sisterhood: The Political Journey of Stigmatized Women with HIV/AIDS and co-author of Transforming Scholarship: Why Women’s and Gender Studies Students Are Changing Themselves and the World

We Can Speak for Ourselves is a necessary read for everyone, especially Black mothers, who are on the front lines of the Black Lives Matter Movement. After all, the movement at its core is about resisting the anti-Black society in which Black mothers are forced to raise their children. Sankofa Waters beautifully blends personal writings, counternarratives, and the voices of five Black mothers to create a book that gives us new language to address the issues impacting Black families and Black survival. Through this work, Sankofa Waters expertly depicts the struggles of Black mothers as organic intellectuals deconstructing, critiquing, and navigating the power structures that oppress their sons, daughters, and Black communities at large.” – Bettina L. Love, University of Georgia; Board Chair of The Kindezi School in Atlanta, Georgia; 2016 Nasir Jones Fellow at the W. E. B. Du Bois Research Institute at Harvard University; and author of Hip Hop’s Li’l Sistas Speak: Negotiating Hip Hop Identities and Politics in the New South


Black feminism counternarratives critical ethnography motherwork urban education

Authors and affiliations

  • Billye Sankofa Waters
    • 1
  1. 1.Northeastern UniversityBostonUSA

Bibliographic information

  • DOI
  • Copyright Information SensePublishers-Rotterdam, The Netherlands 2016
  • Publisher Name SensePublishers, Rotterdam
  • eBook Packages Computer Science
  • Online ISBN 978-94-6300-271-4
  • Buy this book on publisher's site