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Fifth Teachers College faculty member awarded NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship

man's portrait

Keon McGuire

May 16, 2019

Keon McGuire, assistant professor at ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, is having quite a year. This month, McGuire was selected as a 2019 National Academy of Education/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellow; back in March he was named one of five Emerging Scholars for 2019–21 by the American College Personnel Association; and in December he and his partner Meskerem Z. Glegziabher became a father to their first child, Malcolm Ra’iy Zikru-McGuire.

The $70,000 fellowship provides funding and professional development to 30 early-career scholars throughout the U.S. working in critical areas of education research.

Black male feminism

“This project will give me an opportunity to focus on what I’m calling a black male feminist research and learning community,” McGuire said. “It’s an opportunity for black undergraduate men to engage with feminist literature, feminist ideas and to be in conversation with black feminists who are either professors or community organizers on campus or elsewhere.”

McGuire’s goal is to give these students an opportunity to rethink notions of masculinity and what it means to be a man, mainly in ways that are committed to resisting and dismantling patriarchy, sexism and homophobia.

“Over the year, we’ll have bimonthly meetings to engage in conversation or reflection on how the young men and myself have been socialized into what it means to be a man in ways that may be harmful to ourselves and other people and learn more about the ways race, gender and sexuality intersect in the lives of black women and queer folks,” he said.

“Typically, when you hear the word ‘feminism,’ the assumption is it’s just women who are feminists. That’s not correct. The notion of black male feminists is this idea that there are black men who can and should embrace feminist politics work to unlearn their own investments in patriarchy and struggle alongside women, trans and queer people for a more just society.  

“Whether the discussion is disproportionate disciplining of black girls in schools, the lack of media attention given to murdered black trans women, or unequal pay for women of color, the black male feminist point is: How can black men embrace feminism as a necessary strategy for achieving a safe and inclusive society?"

For the last four years, McGuire has led a study group at ASU called Visions of Black Manhood in his role as adviser to African American Men of ASU. The group talks about societal and cultural “rules” boys and men are taught, such as not crying and being tough and how this has affected their ability to ask for help, develop emotional intelligence and communicate effectively. The group also delves into more current topics, like the #MeToo movement and Black Lives Matter.

Gender privilege

McGuire, by his own account, hasn’t always been a feminist.

“Coming from North Carolina and the Bible Belt, the term feminism didn’t mean much to me. Of course, I thought women should get equal pay, not be sexually harassed, and could achieve anything a man could as evidenced through the example of my amazing mother and grandmother. But that was the extent of it,” he said.

Then he moved to Philadelphia for graduate school and met a great community of black and brown feminists.

“They became like family and really challenged and pushed me to be better. They called me out on my sexism, my homophobia and my transphobia in ways that were holding me accountable, yet still loving,” McGuire said. “I feel a responsibility to pay it forward.”

McGuire points out that black men are in no ways more committed to patriarchy than any other racial or ethnic group.

“The reason I focus on black men is because that’s the community I’m a part of and feel responsible for,” McGuire said. “And I’ve always wanted my work to have a meaningful impact and be relevant to the community that has given me so much.”

In the way that white allies are called to help develop racial consciousness for other white people, McGuire believes a lot of the effort to end patriarchy and misogyny falls in the hands of heterosexual men.

The conversation around patriarchy and sexism usually stops at issues of sexual assault and harassment, McGuire said.

“Men tend not to think about the ways that patriarchy and sexism influence so many other areas of life. We fall into this good guy/bad guy binary,” he said. “So if you’re not the overtly sexist guy, then you’re a good guy and everything else passes because you’re not the bad guy.”

There are many ways that patriarchy and the way men live out their masculinities become marginalizing for anyone who isn’t stricly a heterosexual male: domestically, in the workplace, through mansplaining and manspreading: “We must raise our consciousness and transform our politics when it comes to gender equity,” McGuire said.  

“Gender privilege allows us certain forms of advantages largely over women and trans folks as well. And for me, that means none of us are free until we are all free.”

Previous MLFTC faculty NAEd/Spencer Fellowship recipients:

Juan Carrillo, associate professor: His work looks at the role of agency in historically marginalized communities, with a particular focus on LatinxLatinx is the gender-neutral term for Latinos/Latinas. students. One of his focus areas is on the schooling trajectories of academically successful Latino males who come from working-class origins.  

Claudia Cervantes-Soon, associate professor: Her research interests center on critical ethnographic approaches to the study of identities, intersectionalities and pedagogical practices, with a particular focus on the fostering of agency, critical literacy and biliteracy, and empowered identities among children, youth and families from marginalized communities.

Amanda Tachine, postdoctoral scholar: She researches college and transition, sense of belonging and qualitative methodology, through an indigenous lens.

Bryan Henderson, assistant professor: His research focuses on oral argumentation and learning environments that allow students to feel more comfortable and motivated to talk and interact with one another.

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