Changing Perception

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Overall, I hope to learn more about the Black Homewood youth and how the capabilities they possess will help them foster change within their own community. When individuals change how they perceive their community and themselves, they are able to project that modified self-perception to the outside world, therefore, creating a positive image from within. What happens when these young individuals are empowered how can they take charge of their public facing image/narrative? I would also like to know more about the community stakeholders and how they operate within the community organization I am working with. Delving into questions such as what their connection to Homewood is? What is their role in the community? How do they feel about their role? And finally, how do they see themselves enacting change? I additionally would like to know more about the in outs concerning the actual conducting of research itself.  I have conducted research in the past but not to the extent my current line of work is taking. Previously I have interviewed/surveyed a small number of black women on a predominately white college campus but in this current instance my research will be much more involved. I plan on using traditional means of ethnographic research such as conducting interviews, taking note of observations, and keeping documentation. As I’m still conducting interviewing but this time they will be face to face (video to video), the interaction will take longer and be more involved, therefore, I will be working on my interpersonal/interview skills. Moreover, I will explore forms of research that will be new to me such as ‘collaborative ethnography’ which involves people documenting their own realities (through photography and collection of documents) and a stage of returning people’s words from interviews to them in transcript form and discussing the data we have collected, and our interpretations with them” (see Hodge & Jones, 1996; Barton & Hamilton, 1998; Hamilton, 1998). I additionally, will be utilizing teacher-research methodologies through conducting workshops within the program and receiving direct data from the participants themselves. In summation, I will be working with methodologies I don’t really have prior experience with, therefore, with each new experience I will be learning along the way and picking up new skills. These will mostly involve how well I interact with others in different situation as well as my ability to react and adapt to unforeseen complications that may not be negative in nature but are definitely factors that should be taken into account.  

As mentioned previously, I’ve conducted research concerning black women on college campuses, my final presentation explored the concept of hospitality via “inclusion” programs in relation to reported experiences of black women on predominantly white college campuses. According to Khalilah Annette Shabazz (2015), targeted academic advising, mentoring, availability of a staff or faculty member, can all be considered part of institutional support programs related to inclusion. This research involved interviewing groups of Black women in college-prep programs such as RISE and BRIDGES in an effort to understand how these programs work to support community-building for these women in particular. Furthermore, although differing in the fact that this research was conducted with black women on a college campus rather than black students at a high school, conducting research on this topic has allowed me to gain more knowledge concerning community-building as well as inclusion efforts. Additionally, the research I am conducting shares similarities with research conducted in the text I discuss in my literature review. I largely focus on the concept/pedagogic theory, Culturally Sustaining Pedology (CSP), whose main goal is to work within the arena of education, and rather than work to erase a community’s culture instead it works to preserve it (Alim & Paris, 2015: Paris 2012: Paris & Alim, 2014). This methodology factors heavily into to my research project because as I work to accomplish elements of collaborative ethnography, it’s important that the views and thoughts of the stakeholders within my work are constantly deemed essential. My goal is not to erase there thought processes but bring them to light and display their validity. Another element within CSP is how to teachers interpret performance of resistances. ‘Performances of resistance’ are “ a mode of communication or a particular, directed way of responding to the negative gaze, the degrading treatment, and the hurtful assumptions many youths of color receive from others, peers and adults alike” (Kinloch 2017, pg. 27). In the research paper, “You Ain’t Making Me Write”, Valerie Kinloch, a teacher conducting research describes how one of her students, a black female, ‘performs a narrative of resistance’ in reaction to the adverse feelings of exclusion generated by the everyday communications that take place between her and fellow students as well school educators and administrators (Kinloch 2017). Since I will be utilizing teacher-research methodologies, how I interpret certain acts of resistance is key.  I must not be “put off” by these acts but view them as invitations into engaging with these students in an effort to co-construct a classroom environment that is supportive of a variety of perspectives (Kinloch 2017).  

This project interest me because I get to witness and be a part of acts of empowerment while they are still in the development stage. I get to take part in a study that is being conducted with black youths who overtime gain confidence in their ability to speak their truth instead of having one conjured up by mass media.  

I am conducting my project with Homewood Youth-Powered and Engaged (H.Y.P.E.) Media, which is an organization that through the teaching of critical literacy and digital humanities provides students with “new media” skills (e.g., video, social media etc.) in order to help them take charge of their own public facing narrative. H.Y.P.E. Media presents a dynamic opportunity for me to contribute to the Homewood community, this time with high school youth. H.Y.P.E. Media’s summer sessions present space for me to explore the following research questions: How can black students utilize social media in order to change the narrative of their community?; How can they use social media to communicate their thoughts and ideas about their community in order to facilitate change?; And  how can they use social media amongst themselves in order to change how they view themselves and each other? I additionally would like to explore concepts concerning black students and their levels of self-confidence, looking into factors such as how they use social media and how does their usage change over time? What posts do they make that increase confidence – and what comments/reposts change that confidence as well? And finally, is these youths are already extremely how does that affect the study?  

Also, as I mentioned before I have been working with material that largely focuses on culturally sustaining pedagogies whose main goal, as previously stated, is to ‘work within the arena of education, and rather than work to erase a community culture instead it works to preserve it’ (Alim & Paris, 2015: Paris 2012: Paris & Alim, 2014). Furthermore, in my literature review I discussed how another key purpose of the CSP is to disrupt anti-indigeneity, anti-blackness, and anti-brownness myths/stereotypes that are prevalent in the United States and other colonial nation-state’s educational systems (Alexander 2007, Dumas, 2014, Dumas & ross, 2016; S. Lee, 2015; Lomawaima & McCarty, 2006; Woodson 2000). Furthermore, as CSP allows for the co-construction of a classroom partially determined by the students, the result ends up being a setting that opens the floor for complex discussions.  

Again, to reiterate, the research methods I plan on utilizing include: 

  • traditional means of ethnographic research such as conducting interviews, taking note of observations, and keeping documentation. 
  •  ‘collaborative ethnography’ which involves people documenting their own realities (through photography and collection of documents) and a stage of returning people’s words from interviews to them in transcript form and discussing the data we have collected, and our interpretations with them” (see Hodge & Jones, 1996; Barton & Hamilton, 1998; Hamilton, 1998). 
  • research approach in teacher-research methodologies through conducting workshops within the program and receiving direct data from the participants themselves. 

The main/key question I’m operating in pursuit of is, “How can perceptions of ourselves and how others view us be changed when we have control over our own image?”. This question matters because as I mentioned in a previous post, research conducted by sociologist have found that the idea of “neighborhood stigma” is heavily centered on the people’s perception of race as race is a, “statistical marker that stigmatizes not only individuals but also places in which they are concentrated” (Sampson and Raudenbush, 2005:7). Pittsburgh as a whole is a highly segregated city and because of this factors, people’s general views concerning the Homewood community are not generated from their own personal experiences but are usually determined by how they see the community presented in media. In looking solely at the Homewood community, the question of how we can change how the community is perceived in relation to the greater community of Pittsburgh arises. Taking control over your own image and telling your own story is an empowering action. Through the use of social media, communities and individuals can work to influence how they are perceived. When individuals change how they perceive their community and themselves, they are able to project that modified self-perception to the outside world, therefore, creating a positive image from within. The goal of H.Y.P.E. Media is to empower the Black youth of the community by giving them tools in order to interject their voices into the narrative. Utilizing tools such as social media and publications not only can they change the perceptions of others, but they can also change their perceptions of themselves and their own capabilities. Additionally, viewing this topic in relation to the events that have transpired within the past few weeks makes you reflect on the concept of perception. How perception makes others feel that cruel, inhumane actions are justified. How clouded and skewed fields of perception result in viewing others as less than, less than human, less than deserving of respect. And how does viewing others that look like you being treated in such fashion affect your own self-perception?  Your self-worth? Though this project is centered around residents of the Homewood community, it has bigger implications than just the community itself. What happens when people build the confidence to speak their truth? What happens if that confidence was already there to begin with? How did they gain it? What trials and tribulation gave them the power to do so? 

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