Abstract: Fostering Connections, Creating, Identity, Exposing and Interrogating Racism: The Importance of Critical Dialogue Around Slavery and Racialization through Enslaved Dungeons in Ghana (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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180P Fostering Connections, Creating, Identity, Exposing and Interrogating Racism: The Importance of Critical Dialogue Around Slavery and Racialization through Enslaved Dungeons in Ghana

Tuesday, January 19, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Eric Kyere, PhD, Assistant Professor, Indiana University, IN
Lalit Khandare, PhD, MPhil, MSW, Assistant Professor, Pacific University, Eugene, OR
Pranali Garud, MSW, Social Worker, University of Mumbai
Background: The significance of slavery and the continuing struggles of African descendant people in the U.S. are not subjects commonly talked about in Africa. As a result, cultural misunderstandings exist among Africans on the African continent about Africans in the Diaspora. For example, many Ghanaians on one hand, view African Americans who travel to Ghana to explore and reclaim their racial dignity as lucky descendants of slaves who are wealthy because of their American citizenship. On the other hand, some Ghanaians perceive African Americans in negative stereotypical ways and as a group who has refused to take advantage of the opportunities they have in the United States. The problem is not one-sided. Cultural misunderstandings also exist among many African Americans about Africa and Africans. These misunderstandings undermine solidarity that should exist between descendants of Africa relative to the history of European oppression, and their cultural and racial heritage. As a result, many youth today both in Africa and the U.S. are unable to make connection between the past and the current racial inequalities that exist. Their ability to contextualize how the U.S and many African countries have been and continue to be shaped by slavery and the attended racialization in order to engage in praxis that dismantles racism and advances social justice is severely undermined. The current pilot study engaged college students in a two week experiential learning using the slave dungeons in Ghana and series of activities that exposed participants to slavery in both historical and contemporary times. The purpose was to explore the impact of consciousness raising through critical dialogue around slavery and colonialism in exposing and interrogating racism, creating identity and fostering connections among college students in Ghana.

Methods: Data are drawn from semi-structured focus group discussion with college students in Ghana. Participants were recruited in collaboration with two faculty at the University of Cape Coast, Ghana. Participants (N=11, mean age, 22.6) engaged in critical dialogue through experiential learning using historical distancing. Focus group discussions were recorded, transcribed and analyzed using grounded theory approaches, iterative memoing, and thematic analysis.

Results: Findings revealed a nuanced detailed understanding of slavery as a global socio-cultural phenomenon rooted in racism which is evolutionary and adapts to the vicissitudes of time. Participants identified continued Western influences in several domains of life that affect their current living circumstances including education, culture, identity, politics, and economics. They also did make connection to potential agency, and the spiritual and psychological strengths by African descent have survived and continue to thrive despite racism. These inspired hope to believe in themselves and their potential to engage in praxis that advances civic engagement and social justice in their communities.

Conclusion/Implications: Critical dialogue around slavery and European colonization of Africa and its descendant can serve liberation and empowerment possibilities. We will discuss implications for social work including, research and pedagogical skills by which social workers can apply to identify and leverage on the cultural, psychological, and cultural resources inherent in the history of slavery for empowerment.