Vershawn Young

Professor, Joint-Appointed

Portrait of Vershawn Young.
JD, Mitchell Hamline College of Law 
PhD, University of Illinois at Chicago

Extension: 31596



My academic work falls primarily in three areas of Black Studies (masculinity studies, language studies and performance studies). I am a multi-disciplinary artist, scholar, and teacher, I integrate these multiple areas into my published work and instruction, such as communication, composition and rhetoric, education, American literature, and theatre.  

I am perhaps best known for advancing my educational and sociolinguistic concept “code-meshing,” which means allowing minoritized language users to blend their cultural and heritage languages within academic, professional and public writing and speaking.  

As a professor, I have also served on faculty at University of Iowa and University of Kentucky. But I have done and do other stuff too: I have served as a high school drama/English/speech teacher, an elementary school principal, a supervisor of itinerant theater teachers in Los Angeles, and a school board administrator. I have a JD law degree and have served as a child protection mediator for the Ontario Ministry and a family mediator in Canada and the USA.  

I often work as a diversity consultant to schools and organizations, conducting training on cultural competency, interpersonal and intercultural communication. I often conduct workshops with my colleague in the UW English Department, Frankie Condon. 

I am also a solo performance artist and actor. I had the honor to be recognized for “best performance in a play,” for my portrayal of the brain-damaged Gabriel in August Wilson’s Fences. I also regularly tour my one-man show, Your Average Nigga, based on my first book of the same name. I am currently performing the lead male role—Robert Chiltern—in Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband

Between 2020 and present, I have been awarded two (2) external and one (1) internal research support grants, published one (1) critical textbook that combines the study of language and culture with a study of interracial understanding after George Floyd, published three (3) single authored and one (1) co-authored research articles, four (4) research mobilization articles (short articles in the public press, such as scholarly op-eds, perspectives, and points of view), delivered twenty-one (21 or more) keynote addresses, facilitated twenty (20 or more) international and nationwide faculty development workshops on antiracist communication and code meshing, served as one (1) named visiting professor at a major research intensive university. 

Sample Service Activities 

  • Interim Chair, FAUW AF&T, Academic Freedom and Tenure Committee, 2022 
  • East Coast USA Liberal Arts College, First-Year Seminar External Review Team, Lead Reviewer, 2022 
  • East Coast Comprehensive College USA, First Year Writing Program and Two-Course Sequence External Review Team, Lead Reviewer, 2021 
  • Comprehensive Research University, First-Year Communication Arts Program External Review Team, Member 
  • Committee Member, Academic Freedom and Tenure Committee with CAUT (Canadian Association of University Teachers), 2021 to 2024 
  • Board Director, FAUW (Faculty Association University of Waterloo), 2021 to 2023 
  • Committee Member, FCTP (Arts Faculty Tenure and Promotion Committee), 2021-2024 
  • Served previously on Arts FTPC from 2015 to 2018  
  • Founding Member, Black Faculty and Staff Collective (BFSC), 2020 to Present  
  • Director, Black Studies, 2020 to Present—appointed by the UW president and Dean of Arts to lead the team to design and implement the new Black Studies Program. The new program begins with two diplomas, one in Black Studies and the other is Anti-Racist Communication Practices. Both diplomas will launch in Fall 2022. 
  • Founding Member, Aptly Outspoken Collective (AOC), June 2020 to Present  
  • Board Member, The Centre for Free Expression (CTE), 2020 to 2024.  
  • Chair, Conference on College Communication and Composition (CCCC), 2018 to 2021 

Selected Publications and Addresses



Straight Black Queer: Gender Anxiety and the American Dream, in progress. 

Your Average Nigga: Performing Race, Literacy, and Masculinity, Wayne State University Press, 2007

Co-Authored Books 

This Ain’t Yesterday’s Literacy: Culture and Education After George Floyd, Fountainhead Press, January 2021. 

Other People's English: Code Meshing, Code Switching, and African American Literacy, Parlor Press 2019. 

The Routledge Reader of African American RhetoricRoutledge Press, 2018 

Neo-Passing: Performing Identity After Jim Crow, University of Illinois Press, 2018 

Performing Antiracist Activism in Writing, Rhetoric, and Communication, Parlor Press, 2016. 


Social Justice Conference Planning for Writing Studies: Frameworks, Triumphs, and Challenges (with Antonio Byrd, Maria Novotny, Michael Pemberton), Writers: Craft & Context, a special issue titled “Conferencing toward Antiracism: Reckoning with the Past, Reimagining the Present,” 2022 

"Black Lives Matter In Academic Spaces: Three Lessons For Critical Literacy." Journal of College Reading and Learning 50.1 (2020): 1-20. 

 “Call for a Radical, Liberatory, Antiracist Literacy.” Research in the Teaching of English, 2020. 

Book Chapters  

Young, Vershawn Ashanti. “Getting Crunk with Composition Studies,” in Moe, Peter and Stacie Waite, Eds. Inventing the Discipline: Rhetoric, Composition, and Writing, Parlor Press, 2022. 

“Foreword: A Fore Note from an Angry Black Man: Blackness. Should Always Be Center” in Black Perspectives in Writing Program Administration: From Margins to the Center, Eds. Staci Perryman-Clark, and Colin Craig, NCTE Press, 2019. 

Keynote Addresses/Performances  

“Anger: A Black Man's Solo Performance of Race, Equality, and Liberation,” Francis Marion University, Florence, South Carolina, November 14, 2022  

Teaching to Redress: Using the myth of Canadian exceptionalism to pursue anti-racist instruction in composition and rhetoric [Keynote address],” Canadian Association for the Study of Discourse and Writing, Co-Delivered Keynote with Frankie Condon, June 8, 2020. 

“Say They Name in Black English: George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Atatiana Jefferson, Aura Rosser, Trayvon Martin and the Need to Move from College Writing Instruction and Toward Black Linguistic Arts” Case Western Reserve University, 2021 Edward S. and Melinda Sadar Visiting Professor. Lecture in Writing in the Disciplines, CWRU Writing Program, English department, and Baker-Nord Center for the Humanities. Keynote Lecture and faculty workshop, “‘Allies Consult!’ Toward Inclusive Anti-Racist Teaching,” April 28-30, 2021. 

Knowlege Mobilization


 “The Saturday Debate: Is It Ever Acceptable To Use The N-Word In A Classroom?” Toronto Star,  Sat., Nov. 14, 2020 

Why Chadwick Boseman is more of a hero than Hollywood’s Black Panther,” The Conversation, September 21, 2020  

White prof’s admission she posed as Black raises hard questions about race and identityThe Conversation, September 20, 2020  

“Banning the N-word on campus ain’t the answer — it censors Black professors like me,” The Conversation, June 28, 2020.  

Public Media

International Literary Festival Berlin & @GoetheToronto worldwide screening day of Oscar-nominated documentary “I Am Not Your Negro” on December 10, 6pm, 2020 EST with a Twitter contextualisation by Dr. Vershawn Young.

“Teaching Code Meshing,” Episode 20, Pedagogue, April 2, 2020 

Founding member of Aptly Outspoken Collective, sponsoring bi-weekly webinars for community knowledge on anti-racism and cultural competency-- 

Public Teaching

Santa Barbara College, Santa Barbara, CA: this is part II of a workshop for faculty on implementing diverse and equitable writing practices in college level writing instruction. “The Modes and Means Code-Meshing and Translingualism: Your Role in University Writing Instruction, Part II,” May 13, 2022.

University of Houston, Houston, Texas: This is a two-event lecture and workshop. There is a university-wide writing workshop for faculty on implementing diverse and equitable writing practices in college level writing instruction. “The Modes and Means Code-Meshing and Translingualism: Your Role in University Writing Instruction,” and the student writing workshop: “Your Voice Matters: Using Translingualism in School and Professional Writing,” both March 31, 2022  

Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon: This is a two-event lecture and workshop. There is a university-wide keynote Address: Black Lives Matter in Academic Spaces: Three Lessons for Critical Literacy and faculty Workshop: The Modes and Means Code-Meshing and Translingualism: Your Role in University Writing Instruction,February 24 & 25, 2022. 

The University of Texas, San Antonio: This is an invited keynote panel discussion on diverse pedagogies for literacy and writing on the conference topic: “Let Voices Be Heard: Clearing Space for Linguistic Diversity in a Socially and Culturally Just Society, Department of Bicultural-Bilingual Studies, October 2, 2021. 

Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon: Inaugural Public Conference for Antiracist Teaching, Language, and Assessment: This part II public conference for teachers in the USA and Canada.This the roundtable pedagogy workshop: “Implementing Antiracist Writing Guidelines,” October 1, 2021.  


  • Mitacs Research Grant for Undergraduate Research Assistant: “Exploring the Cognitive Burden of Racial Code-Switching: For many minorities, especially Blacks and African Americans, practicing race-based code-switching.” Awarded December 2020 for Spring 2021. 
  • Mitacs Research Grant for Undergraduate Research Assistant: “Straight Black Queer: Gender Anxiety and the African American Dream.” Awarded October 2020 for Spring 2021. 

Current Research 

I am currently writing two books, one on anti-Black racism in Canada—an autoethnographic study of anti-Black racisms in Canada within and outside of the academy. I am also completing a book on the performance of black masculinity in the media by successful African American men: Barack Obama, playwright August Wilson, and comedian Dave Chappelle. I am analyzing how American racial discourse produces masculine anxiety for Black men as they participate in traditional white male dominated spaces. 

Areas of Graduate Supervision 

  • Autoethnography 
  • Black Studies (esp. African Americans and U.S. Law after Jim Crow;  Black drama and theatre, Black performance of everyday life, Black masculinity)  
  • Composition and Rhetoric (Translingual Writing, Code Meshing, Code Switching, Relationship between speech/oral communication and writing/composition) 
  • African American literature (Dramatic Literature of the Harlem Renaissance, Late 20th/21st Century Authors, James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Daniel Black, W.E.B DuBois)