Shade: Literacy Narratives at Black Gay Pride

Seth E. Davis


Despite significant work on literacy as a situated practice (Brandt; Street; Gee), in the African American community (Banks; Richardson; Young) and in the LGBT community (Alexander; Alexander and Rhodes), only recently have scholars looked at literacy at the intersection of Black and LGBT people. A notable example is Eric Pritchard’s discussion of “literacy normativity” and the multilayered ways in which Black queer literacies function(Darnell). In this multimedia article, the social space I focus on is Washington, DC, Black Gay Pride 2013, where I discussed shade and shade narratives with seven men and one transgender woman. A main finding of this research was that participants typically relied on narrative to illustrate how shade was thrown; in fact, narrative is a necessary component of catching shade. These narratives provide situated examples of throwing shade while foregrounding the subjectivities or backstories that give throwing shade traction. In this way, throwing shade as a part of a larger “fierce literacy” talks back to literacy normativity and  speaks to Black queer people’s relationships with one another, with language, and with the larger culture.


Black queer literacies; throwing shade; queer; Black feminism; popular culture; signifying; snapping; embodied literacies ; literacy narratives

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