As a recipient of the Rackham Public Scholarship Grant, I have worked collaboratively with Sadie Nash Leadership Project’s (SNLP) ELLA Fellows over the past seven months. There are 14 fellows, high school and college-aged women of color, who exemplify leadership skills and qualities. Through training workshops facilitated by SNLP staff and myself, these young women are gaining and refining their facilitation, evaluation, and community engaged research design skills. The Fellows are working to activate, support, and mobilize their communities on a variety of relevant social justice issues. Working on this project has been critical to my development as a community-engaged scholar, and has expanded and reaffirmed two beliefs that I have carried with me into graduate school. These truths will guide my scholarship and my approach to mentoring future community-engaged scholars.
1. Social change work is being done every day in public and private spaces from which we should be actively and eagerly learning.
I believe that learning from the principles and values that guide social change work in community spaces can enhance academic research. These principles can make the scholarship we produce culturally relevant, useful, accessible, and oriented towards social transformation. During their monthly in-person retreats and their skype conversations, the fellows facilitate dialogue and action that are interlaced with empathy and positioned within their cultural strengths. They share and support one another through their experiences of navigating the intersections of oppressive social experiences such as sexism and racism. These young women actively tap into their own vulnerability and strength. They create spaces where their sense of social responsibility is manifested in their desire to produce culturally-based social change, and liberate and heal one another as they unpack hegemony and identify the influence of colonization and oppression in their personal lives. Their unpacking of these experiences informs their community projects as they craft curriculums and community action plans, and lead workshops that promote social action on their respective topics.
2. We all have valuable skill sets that can and should be applied towards our active pursuit of social change, and our scholarship will be the better for it.
As graduate students, we may feel that our contributions to our respective fields and the greater social good must be held off until we attain our degrees, but this simply is not true. Through my collaboration with SNLP I have been able to help integrate aspects of participatory action research into ELLA’s programming. I led sessions on topics including community asset mapping and photo voice. These participatory methods provided the ELLA fellows with practical tools to capture community voice and perspectives in their workshop designs. This experience has provided me with an intellectual and physical space where the intersections of my research training and social commitments have been actualized. This actualization creates opportunities for me to imagine and challenge my contributions to the study of youths’ sociopolitical development in ways that reflect the teachings of these young women.
To learn more about how you can support the ELLA program please contact Casta #joyandliberation2018 #sadienash
To further support this amazing organization please join me on June 11th for an evening of Joy and Liberation and/or feel free to make donation. http://www.sadienash.org/general-info/.