A Conceptual Falsetto: Re-imagining Black Childhood Via One Girl’s Exploration of Prince

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A young Prince scoffed at a single story of identity, i.e., dominant social constructions of race, class, gender, and youth associated with inadequacy and confinement. Inspired by Prince, this autoethnography introduces a conceptual falsetto framework (CFF). Like Prince’s falsetto which resists the constraints of his tenor voice, CFF resists the tenor of a single story of Black childhood—it goes higher. CFF calls Black scholars to (re)imagine Black childhood into ideologies of love (Delgado 1995 in The Rodrigo Chronicles; Dumas and Nelson, 86(1), 27–47, 2016; Duncan, 8(1), 85–104, 2002), by using reflexive practices to write about one’s own childhood on multiple tracks. Identifying and examining the social/cultural and political material of their childhoods, Black scholars can produce new ideas and approaches to research on Black childhood more generally—swelling a new discourse on Black childhood from the margins of society into the public discourse. “Many feminist writers advocate starting research from one’s own experience… using personal knowledge to help them in the research process” (Ellis 2004:48). I illustrate CFF by analyzing my childhood journal (1986–1988) which examines and emulates Prince’s artistry. Findings reveal Black childhoods are spent resisting, creating symbolic universes, being in relationship, bonding around intellectuality and abstract ideas—choosing to love something and being in pursuit of it.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)461-499
Number of pages39
JournalJournal of African American Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Autoethnography
  • Black childhood
  • Community Cultural Wealth
  • Critical Race Methodology
  • Prince

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Cultural Studies
  • Sociology and Political Science


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