Biography: Dr. Vershawn Ashanti Young

Professor, Departments of Communication Arts and English Language and Literature

Photo of Shirin VossoughiVershawn Ashanti Young, who goes by dr. vay, is a scholar within the disciplines of communication and writing, gender, performance, and race. He brings all these together in his scholarship and public work. He regularly serves as a consultant to schools and organizations around issues of cultural competency, educational access and success for historically oppressed people of colour; around issues of gender equity, and what he calls the continuing civil rights movement. He is perhaps best known for his scholarship on the concept of codemeshing, where he advances that writers and speakers should use their home linguistic backgrounds to communicate, particularly in high stakes communication situations. He further advances that students and professionals from diverse language backgrounds should not have to sacrifice their language identities in the face of long-standing U.S. linguistic prejudice against such groups.

dr. vay has authoured or co-authored 9 books, including his recent Routledge Reader of African American Rhetoric (Routledge 2018), Neo-Passing: Performing Identity After Jim Crow (Illinois 2018) Antiracist Pedagogy in Writing, Rhetoric and Communication Studies (Parlor Press 2016/17), and Other Peoples English: Code-Meshing, Code Switching and African American Literacy (2018 Parlor Press). He is currently completing two monograph and one teaching guide: Straight Black Queer: Gender Anxiety and the American Dream and When Teachers Hurt: Narratives of Failure and Success in Teaching and Learning and the teaching guide: The Pocket Guide to Code-Meshing: Raise Your Authentic Voice in Academic and Public Speaking and Writing.

He is currently a professor in the departments of Communication Arts and English Language and Literature at the University of Waterloo, Ontario Canada. He has served on the faculties at the University of Kentucky and the University of Iowa. He has also served as an administrator within both Chicago Public Schools and Los Angeles Unified School District. He has served as a high school teacher of English, drama, and speech communication, and has worked as a professional actor. He still tours his one-man show “Your Average Nigga,” titled after his first book of the same name.

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