Abstract: Moving Towards Freedom: Exploring the Life Stories of Black Youth Workers in Community-Based Educational Spaces (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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691P Moving Towards Freedom: Exploring the Life Stories of Black Youth Workers in Community-Based Educational Spaces

Sunday, January 15, 2023
Phoenix C, 3rd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Demond Hill, MA, Ph.D. Student, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA
Often, community-based educational spaces are the sites for which youth, especially, youth of color spend most of their leisure time. Due to educational inequality, community-based educational spaces and youth workers have been uniquely positioned to alleviate the consequences of school-based racial inequality. In this role, youth workers are often required to act as informal teachers, social workers, and at times therapists. Prior scholarship overlooks the experiences of youth workers within their community-based educational spaces, and specifically, the experiences of Black youth workers as a result of its predominant focus on (a) professionalized roles such as teachers, social workers, and psychologists, and (b) professionalized settings such as schools and classrooms. Therefore, this study explores the experiences of three Black youth workers within community-based educational spaces in an Midwestern city.

This study utilizes a narrative inquiry methodology to document three Black youth workers’ conceptions of liberatory pedagogies within an anti-Black context, and perspectives on structures, mechanisms, and common-place practices that disrupt liberatory pedagogies with community-based educational spaces. Narrative inquiry is defined as a methodological process that captures the experiences of individuals and phenomena through storytelling. Specifically, narrative inquiry attempts to understand how and why stories are developed in particular ways, it serves an important purpose for this study as it humanizes the stories of the participants, and it requires a deep understanding of the lives of the participants through in-depth and authentic dialogue.

I conducted interviews lasting between 40 and 60 minutes that were in-person or through virtual platforms such as Zoom. Each interview was recorded, transcribed, securely stored, and coded line-by-line to identify several emerging themes. After collecting participants' narratives and transcription, the first draft of codes was done by hand to develop familiarity with the interviews and make any necessary corrections. Dedoose was used to re-code and analyze the remaining transcripts. To ensure that data was accurate, each participant was offered the option to check over the final versions of their own transcripts from the in-depth interviews. I employed a member check strategy to ensure that data wasn’t glossed over, neglected, or intentionally manipulated for the purpose of the study.

This study reveals three important findings from the narratives of three Black youth workers (1) liberation and liberatory pedagogical practices, (2) the disruption of liberation and liberatory pedagogical practices, and (3) resistance and survival within community-based educational spaces.

This study engages the voices of three Black youth workers to document their experiences, practices, and knowledge within community-based educational spaces. As scholars and practitioners, the perspectives of Black youth workers provide a critical foundation for necessary pedagogical and practice-oriented change that is essential to promoting Black youth development. The daily experiences, ideologies, and pedagogies of each Black youth worker is important for the field of youth work, social work practice, and the growing literature on youth workers. The stories of youth workers are important as they offer relevant insights through their deep connections with Black youth that support transformative healing, freedom, and ultimately, liberation from oppression.