The spirit that protects the youth : maroonage, African-centered education, and the case of Kamali Academy in New Orleans, Louisiana
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This dissertation is an ethnographic analysis of the ways in which disenfranchised Black communities mobilize cultural legacies of maroonage to empower themselves through the establishment of independent educational institutions. Using Kamali Academy, an African-centered, systematic home school in New Orleans, Louisiana, as a case study and ethnographic site, I examine two primary questions: What does the relationship between maroonage, as a political-cultural praxis, and independent Black educational institutions tell us about the construction of autonomous Black communities in the United States? Specifically, what does Kamali Academy teach us about these communities’ viability as interventions into a failing educational system that marginalizes Black students and families in New Orleans? Building on existing scholarship, I highlight maroonage as a method of community construction within a dominant socio-political structure. I depart from the literature, however, by rearticulating maroonage as a translocal and transhistorical cultural tradition, a process by which individuals and communities disengage from the dominant structure and re-engage in affirming and positive institutions. When considered within the context of both the charter school movement that has taken over New Orleans public schools since Hurricane Katrina as well as the extensive legacy of the struggle for independent Black education in the United States, Kamali Academy provides insight into what I have termed institutional maroonage, or the formation and maintenance of independent Black institutions that serve as spaces for community building and benefit the interests of Black freedom.