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“Healing Spaces of Refuge”: Social Justice Youth Development, Radical Healing, and Artistic Expression for Black Youth
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Understanding the relationships between trauma and oppression in the lives of Black youth is an important area of study because it redefines trauma and its effect on their healthy development into adulthood. While deconstructing how Black youth experience trauma holds a significance, it is also imperative to consider how this group heals from trauma. Using the Social Justice Youth Development (SJYD) framework and the radical healing process as a guide, this research study was created to conduct an in-depth examination of a youth development program that employed artistic expression as a tool to facilitate radical healing in the lives of Black youth. Qualitative case study methods were used to address the question: How does a 5-week youth development program as a whole facilitate the radical healing process through its four components (care, critical consciousness, community, and culture)? Findings from this case study showed that Black youth enrolled in a summer arts program in South Dallas, Texas navigate oppressive forces in their community but experience a radical healing process in what I name a ‘healing space of refuge.’ This ‘healing space of refuge’ provided youth with 1) adults that enact radical care for their personal and community well-being, 2) a space to celebrate their cultural identity, and 3) a culture of critical thinking that assisted them in building their critical consciousness. Specific program processes related to radical care were displayed through development of familial relationships, program resistance against institutional oppression, and the adoption of survival tactics. Processes related to creating a space that celebrated the cultural identity of Black youth were displayed through an adoption of critical pedagogical methods and collective actions that celebrated Black youth identity. Processes related to creating a culture of critical thinking to develop critical consciousness were displayed through the use of instances of misunderstandings to collectively cultivate critical thinking skills and the program outcomes of Black youth gaining knowledge of history, knowledge of self, an understanding of community, and an understanding of social justice.
Brown, Aishia Ayanna (2016). “Healing Spaces of Refuge”: Social Justice Youth Development, Radical Healing, and Artistic Expression for Black Youth. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from
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