Amid concerns about the decreasing political engagement of young people, scholars and policy makers have begun discussing the “civic achievement gap,” disparities in civic capacity between low-income students and Students of Color and their White, wealthier counterparts. While this scholarship raises important issues, it often relies on a narrow view of civic engagement, downplaying alternative forms of civic activity and the variability of civic life across contexts. This can lead to deficit-based models of civic education that bypass the opportunity to tap into the many less-visible ways youth, particularly those from low-income Communities of Color, are already engaged in civic life. In this article, Paul J. Kuttner offers as an alternative approach, youth cultural organizing, which engages young people in catalyzing change in their communities through the arts and other forms of cultural expression, drawing on shared cultural resources. He presents a theoretical framework for this culturally sustaining civic engagement pedagogy based on a case study of the organization Project HIP-HOP, and he explores the potential of the arts and hip-hop culture as asset-based spaces within which to engage young people in civic life.

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