Abstract: "Show Us through Your Actions": Youths' Practical Recommendations for Antiracist Praxis in Youth Participatory Action Research Projects (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

"Show Us through Your Actions": Youths' Practical Recommendations for Antiracist Praxis in Youth Participatory Action Research Projects

Saturday, January 15, 2022
Liberty Ballroom I, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
* noted as presenting author
Noor Toraif, MA, Doctoral Student, Boston University, MA
Astraea Augsberger, PhD, Assistant Professor, Boston University, MA
Adrienne Young, Graduate Student, Boston University, MA
Homar Murillo, Undergraduate Student, Boston University, Boston, MA
Katherine Gergen-Barnett, MD, Vice Chair of Primary Care Innovation and Transformation; Program Director in the Department of Family Medicine, Boston Medical Center, Boston, MA
Background and Purpose: Scholars have investigated youths’ conceptualizations of race, racial identity, and racism, as well as how each of these constructs operate within Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR) projects. YPAR has been posited as a site for critical pedagogy, providing a space for youth to express and develop their ideas on various topics such as race, racism, and interlocking systems of oppression. However, additional research is needed to understand youths’ understanding of antiracism or resistance to racism in YPAR contexts, and how they incorporate antiracist praxis in this work. This study uses a YPAR project as a supportive context to examine youth members’ 1) incorporation of antiracist praxis within a YPAR setting, and 2) practical recommendations to researchers on how to incorporate antiracist praxis within a YPAR project.

Methods: This study draws from a larger partnership between Boston University School of Social Work and Boston Medical Center to engage youth (ages 16-24) in a year-long YPAR. To examine youth members’ incorporation of, and recommendations for, antiracist praxis in a YPAR context, we draw from the following data sources: 1) in-depth semi-structured interviews (n=8) conducted by adult facilitators with eight youth YPAR members; and 2) and other textual project materials including transcripts of weekly meetings, YPAR workshops, and YPAR orientation sessions. Data were analyzed using thematic analyses, where researchers 1) read and reread the transcripts to better understand the data; 2) coded interview transcripts (n=4) to develop an initial codebook; 3) applied the codebook to additional data; 4) collated codes into themes; and 5) explored the relationship between codes and themes. YPAR youth members were engaged throughout the research process, and participated in discussions with the adult researchers to provide feedback on the interview protocol, initial codes, and theme generation processes.

Findings: Our findings suggest that YPAR youth members incorporated antiracist practices by creating and engaging in spaces to identify, process, and reflect on racialized incidents and dynamics internal and external to the YPAR project. Youth members also developed research questions and protocols to uplift the most marginalized voices in healthcare, and to ask pointed questions of Boston Medical Center providers in order to understand how racial differences are navigated within this healthcare setting. Youth recommendations for how to incorporate antiracist praxis in a YPAR setting included: 1) ongoing preparation and education for adult facilitators interested in engaging with youth of color and cultivating antiracist projects, and 2) creating intentional spaces for reflection, dialogue, and community building as a group, allowing all YPAR members to develop a rapport and to feel comfortable in the YPAR space.

Conclusions and Implications: Our findings suggest that youth YPAR members have complex understandings of antiracist practices, as well as how to incorporate them within a YPAR context. Additionally, both youths’ lived experiences and deep understanding of antiracism underscore the necessity of involving youth at all stages of planning, facilitating, and evaluating YPAR projects. Adult researchers can and should make space to learn from their youth partners in this work.