Mentor to Muse: The Lived Experiences of African American Female Mentors
Gamble, Wyletta Sheree
Hultgren, Francine H
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In this phenomenological study, I explore the lived experiences of six African American female mentors working with African American female youth. The mentors in this study range in age from twenties through fifties and are employed in various fields including education, healthcare and youth development. Having become mentors through formal and informal avenues, the mentors are referred to as muses because of their desire to build meaningful relationships with their mentees and serve as sources of inspiration who are willing to listen and learn from their mentees. The works of philosophers Martin Heidegger, Hans-Georg Gadamer and Edward Casey are intertwined with the writings of Black feminist scholars such as Patricia Hill Collins and Audre Lorde, while Max van Manen guides the phenomenological process with pedagogical insights and reminders. Through individual conversations with each muse, the power in care and the importance of listening in mentoring relationships is uncovered as essential components. Weaving through the simple, yet profound narrative around sustaining relationships with African American female youth are topics that need continued exploration, particularly in educational settings. Through the muses sharing their own experiences with mentoring, race and working with African American female youth, themes connected to gender, race, struggle and triumph emerge. The significance of place, the complexities of Black femininity, and the benefits of genuine dialogue are all explored in ways that bring new understanding to African American female experiences and how they connect to today's educational climate. This study concludes with phenomenological recommendations for educational stakeholders to pursue partnerships with school, family and community. Including the voices of community pedagogues, such as mentors, and other adults who work with our youth outside of the school setting, can help to strengthen the academic experience for both educators and these students. With a primary focus of educational change centered on the ideas of adults, it is also recommended that educational decisions become more inclusive with the insights of students, parents and community members. Continuing the dialogue with community pedagogues can help uncover more of the missing pedagogical insights beneficial to African American female students and their future achievement and success.