Theses Doctoral

(Re)Imagining Black Youth: Negotiating the Social, Political, and Institutional Dimensions of Urban Community-Based Educational Spaces

Baldridge, Bianca Jontae

Literature on community-based youth programs generally depicts these spaces as valuable settings that support the academic, social, and emotional development of young people (Eccles & Gootman, 2002; Ginwright, 2009; McLaughlin, 2000). However, little research has explored how these organizations and youth workers "frame" and "imagine" the youth they serve. This study employed a critical ethnographic methodology at Educational Excellence (EE), a non-profit community-based educational program, to understand how youth workers' understanding of social, political, and educational problems inform their framing and imagining of Black youth. Participant observation data were triangulated with semi-structured interviews with all youth workers at EE (N=20), focus groups, and document analysis of organizational literature. Findings indicate that multiple tensions in the framing and imagining of Black youth exist among youth workers at EE, which thusly, shapes how they think, what they say and what they actually do. Additionally, findings from this study show that youth workers have to navigate their feelings regarding how society and the educational system imagines and frames Black youth as deficient "problems to be fixed," and their own deep understanding of the multiple ways society and the educational system have failed Black youth. Further, findings also indicate how the current trend toward deficit framing is directly linked to the current neo-liberal educational market, which incentivizes community-based educational spaces to frame youth as socially, culturally, and intellectually deficient in order to successfully compete with charter schools for funding. This study also demonstrates that both an increasingly privatized educational market, as well as youth workers' sense making about the world - causes them to unconsciously perpetuate the deficit imagining of Black youth they strive to erase. The implication of this finding speaks to the individual and organizational struggles of many youth workers, activists, scholars, and educators engaged in social justice work.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Sociology and Education
Thesis Advisors
Wells, Amy Stuart
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
May 9, 2012