Abstract: Applying a Healing Centered Framework with Middle Class Black Women Navigating COVID-19 (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

Applying a Healing Centered Framework with Middle Class Black Women Navigating COVID-19

Sunday, January 16, 2022
Liberty Ballroom N, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
* noted as presenting author
Phylicia Allen, MSW, Doctoral Candidate, Washington University in Saint Louis, NC
Priscilla Kennedy, MSW, PhD Student, University of Houston, Houston, TX
Eshwar Ranganath, High School Diploma, Undergraduate Student, University of Houston, Houston, TX
Nina Tahija, BA, MSW Student, University of Houston, Houston, TX
Quenette Walton, PhD, LCSW, Assistant Professor, University of Houston, Houston, TX
Gabrielle Aquino, MSW, Doctoral Student, University of Houston, Houston, TX
Background and Purpose: Recent statistics show that deaths related to COVID-19 are highest among Black women. In addition to COVID-19 deaths, existing inequities for this population have been exacerbated due to intersecting factors that impact Black women’s COVID-19 related experiences. These factors include gendered racism at the institutional and individual levels; preexisting conditions; determinants such as access to healthcare; and having essential jobs as frontline workers. Scholarly work has broadened our understanding of the relationship between gendered racism and well-being by illuminating healing modalities as a protective factor for Black Americans. Healing in practice is asset driven and adapts culturally relevant individual and collective ways of being. Reports have identified several healing strategies that Black women have used during the pandemic such as spirituality, connecting with friends and family, and participating in civic activities. The adverse effects of COVID-19 place middle-class Black women in a unique position to navigate the pandemic using healing strategies. Yet research on how middle-class Black women heal through a pandemic is not well known. Thus, this study sought to apply a healing centered framework to elucidate middle-class Black women’s experiences with healing during COVID-19.

Methods: Forty-three in-depth, semi-structured interviews were conducted with Black women 21 years of age and older who self-reported having had experiences with COVID-19 and having middle-class status based on their education level, income, and occupation. Women were recruited using participant-driven sampling methods (snowball sampling), social media outlets such as Twitter, and emailing flyers to various social groups that predominantly serve middle-class Black women (e.g., Black female sororities and Black female professional organizations). Interviews focused on questions that elicited the women’s perspectives on how they created meaning regarding their experiences with COVID-19. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and analyzed and coded using the constant comparative method of grounded theory.

Results: Narratives from middle-class Black women revealed strengths-based assets. Findings coincided with the Healing Centered Framework (Ginwright, 2018), an approach implemented by practitioners that encourages holistic processes, focusing on one’s assets rather than one’s traumatic experiences. Consistent with the framework, results from our study illuminated four key areas of healing for middle-class Black women in relation to their experiences with COVID-19: (1) collectivism through familial bonding, (2) civic action through advocacy, (3) accumulation of positive definitions of self, and (4) praying. These areas of healing provided a deeper understanding of ways to decolonize the strong Black woman narrative in order make healing possible among a group of women that are often ignored within the healing literature: middle-class Black women.

Conclusions and Implications: This study used healing centered framework that acknowledged and centered the strengths and promotive assets among middle-class Black women. Results from this study suggest healing as a holistic process that has helped Black women navigate uncertain times. To promote racial and social justice in social work, further investigation is needed into ways in which race, gender, and class influence Black women’s healing practices, toward a goal of implementing models of practice that support opportunities for middle-class Black women to engage in healing.