The Fifth Element

Social Justice Pedagogy through Spoken Word Poetry

By Crystal Leigh Endsley

Subjects: Poetry, Education, African American Studies, Cultural Studies
Series: SUNY series, Praxis: Theory in Action
Paperback : 9781438459868, 184 pages, January 2017
Hardcover : 9781438459851, 184 pages, February 2016

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Table of contents


1. Mic Check

2. From the Inside Out

3. When the Audience Claps Back

4. Acts of Love

5. Been Around the World

Appendix: Ashe, Ashe, Amen

Explores spoken word poetry as a tool for social justice, critical feminist pedagogy, and new ways of teaching.


The writing and performance of spoken word poetry can create moments of productive critical engagement. In The Fifth Element, Crystal Leigh Endsley charts her experience of working with a dynamic and diverse group of college students, who are also emerging artists, to explore the connection between spoken word and social responsibility. She considers how themes of activism, identity, and love intersect with the lived experiences of these students and how they use spoken word to negotiate resistance and to navigate through life. Endsley also examines the local and transnational communities where performances took place to shed light on concepts of social responsibility and knowledge production.

Crystal Leigh Endsley is Assistant Professor of Africana Studies at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York.