Abstract: Our Voices: A Media-Based Afterschool Program for Black Youth (Society for Social Work and Research 22nd Annual Conference - Achieving Equal Opportunity, Equity, and Justice)

Our Voices: A Media-Based Afterschool Program for Black Youth

Friday, January 12, 2018: 8:30 AM
Monument (ML 4) (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Nkemka Anyiwo, MSW, Doctoral Student, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, MI
BACKGROUND:  Racial marginalization has been found to negatively affect the development and well-being of Black youth (Neblett et al., 2010). Sociopolitical development (SPD)—the process by which an individual develops an understanding of cultural and political factors that influence their status in society—can protect Black youth against negative effects of marginalization (Hope & Spencer, 2017; Watts, Williams, & Jagers, 2003). For Black youth, SPD involves having opportunities to think about their racial identity and develop attitudes that may lead to active engagement in their communities. This paper examined one such opportunity, Our Voices,­– a piloted youth participatory action research intervention that aims to facilitate Black youth’s SPD by critically analyzing representations of Black television characters.

METHODS:  Our Voices was implemented at a predominately Black high school in the Midwest and was administered throughout the 2014-2015 academic year.  Study participants included 15 Black adolescent high school students. This study reports findings from qualitative analysis of pre-and-post semi structured interviews with participants, taped program sessions, and program facilitators field notes. First, we discuss the way that we structured conversations to facilitate participants’ exploration of their identity. Then, we report findings about how participants conceptualize their racial identity and the experiences of Blacks in the U.S. The Our Voices intervention allowed participants to conduct a content analysis of television shows to ascertain their understanding and conceptualization of Black representation in television. From there students enrolled in the intervention used the findings from their content analysis to design and lead workshops on topics centered around racial stereotypes and SPD.

RESULTS: Preliminary analysis produce four themes related to Black youth’s conceptualization of their race. First, youth discussed distinctions between being African American and Black.  The term Black was described as a physical characteristic while the term African American was described as a racial/ethnic identification and indicator of ancestry. Second, youth describe skin tone as being influential in the construction of their identity. They discuss differential treatment from others based on their skin tone as being influential in the way they perceived themselves in childhood. Third, youth describe struggle as being a key attribute of the Black experience that shapes identity.  Their personal experiences of discrimination as well as their perception of societal barriers are discussed as being influential in their connection to being Black as well as the implications of being Black on their lived experiences. Finally, youth identify stereotypes as being influential in Black identity. Stereotypes shaped what their peers believed were acceptable or unacceptable behaviors for Black youth to engaged in and were influential in how non-Black people perceived and interact with Black youth.     

IMPLICATIONS: Participatory action research interventions like the Our Voices program serve provides a supportive context for facilitating Black youth SPD by considering both their emerging racial identities and civic engagement behaviors.  Attitudes and beliefs regarding student’s ability to create effective and sustainable change in their schools and communities are important considerations for future research with Black youth and members of other underrepresented groups.