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The
Community
Psychologist

Volume 54, Number 2 Spring 2021

Education Connection

Edited by Mason G. Haber, Independent Community Psychologist

The Racial Justice Inquiry, Discourse, and Action in Community Psychology Education (RJIDA) Initiative

Written by Mason G. Haber, Independent Community Psychologist

In the Winter Issue of The Community Psychologist, the Education Connection provided an overview of the goals and activities of the Council on Education and how these have changed over time in pursuit of our mission to support, advocate and advance the excellence, growth, diversity, and social justice impact of education in community psychology and community research and action. Also discussed were the planned efforts of the COE for the year to promote racial justice prior to and following the Call to Action on Anti-Blackness. These included developing a resource page, developing a statement on the use of the Graduate Records Examination (GRE) in graduate community psychology training programs, engaging in outreach and discussions related to racial justice, and producing tools for training programs to advance their racial justice goals including a self-assessment and curriculum guidelines.  This column now turns to the COEs new initiative to advance several of these racial justice-related activities and others during the current year and beyond: the Racial Justice Inquiry, Discourse, and Action (RJIDA) Initiative. Although the shape of the RJIDA Initiative is still emerging, I am delighted to be able to share our first steps to date and some of the intentions for the work moving forward. I am also excited to introduce new members of the RJIDA team, three RJIDA practicum students, whose work on the initiative is being supported as one part of SCRA’s broader efforts toward diversity, equity, and inclusion in the CP. These students have already made meaningful contributions to racial justice work in multiple spheres relevant to RJIDA objectives. We are honored that they and their mentors have agreed to assist us and in so doing, we hope, acquire valuable experience in furthering racial justice pedagogy in their own and other programs and throughout the CP field.

Scope of the RJIDA Initiative

Although the work of the RJIDA is just beginning, based on discussions of our COE to date, we have already moved somewhat beyond the initial focus, confined to tasks assigned to the COE in the SCRA Executive Committee Response to the Call to Action on Anti-Blackness (Society for Community Research and Action :: Call to Action (scra27.org)). The three types of activities of RJIDA as it is currently conceptualized and specific examples of these activities are shown in Table 1. Note that these are merely examples – we expect that the activities ultimately pursued will be selected and shaped with the guidance of a broader group of stakeholders than the COE RJIDA Working Group coordinating the initiative. 

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The Executive Committee Response to the Call to Action on Anti-Blackness directed the COE to develop a “self-assessment” of existing practices, through which to identify products to further advance anti-racist practice, including curriculum and other education program guidelines as well as  “new skills, tools, and resources to support transformation.” These goals constitute the Inquiry dimension of the initiative – i.e., an inquiry into needs of educational programs and the field to grow to achieve racial justice goals and the resources required to address those needs (Table 1, second column from the left). In our initial discussions, we decided to center this inquiry in a hybrid survey and self-assessment, building on the practice of field-wide surveys of CP education programs conducted by the COE since the 70s (for details of the most recent surveys and their findings, see Haber, Kohn-Wood, and the COE, 2018; Haber, Neal, Christens, Faust, and Scott, 2017). The self-assessment component will guide programs and their stakeholders in exploration of their racial justice goals, efforts to date to achieve these goals, and challenges at multiple levels (e.g., program, department, college). Ideally, the self-assessment will be informed through broad dialogue among including students and faculty within the programs, and potentially, representatives of the broader communities that CP education programs serve. The survey component will likely include qualitative data derived from the program self-assessment (e.g., types of racial justice goals, activities, challenges) as well as metrics that might help capture status of these efforts and barriers (e.g., representation of people color among program students and faculty). A concern raised in Working Group discussions for designing and interpreting data for the survey is avoiding “up or down” comparisons of programs that could be used to identify some programs as being more or less “racially just” than others, in the absence of a clear consensus in the field regarding the bases for such evaluative judgments and their potential for shaming. 

The second, Discourse dimension (Table 1, third column from the left), emerged in part in response to these concerns about the potential for deficit-focused use of inquiry findings. It was reasoned that to the extent that the initiative promoted dialogue and co-learning opportunities, not only among stakeholders within programs but also among program stakeholder groups, tendencies for evaluative comparison would be lessened and programs would be more easily learn from one another. The hope was also that dialogue among programs would be helpful in ensuring that RJIDA products would be useful to a diverse range of programs, through identification of the shared racial justice goals and activities. It was also believed that inter-program dialogue would promote dissemination of ideas and help programs learn from other programs’ examples how to tailor RJIDA tools and the implementation of the tools to their own racial justice curriculum and guideline development needs.  

The final, Action dimension (Table 1, fourth column) arose from a recognition of the limitations of many diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts in college and university settings and needs for broader, systemic and structural change to achieve racial justice goals in education (for numerous examples, see http://thedemands.org, n.d.; and also Tatum, 2017, Prologue, pp. 40-46). In order for the RJIDA Initiative to be impactful at this level, action extending beyond the initial year of primarily program-level inquiry and work will be needed. Thus, this aspect of the initiative will be grounded in but likely need to continue beyond the initial term of the initiative.  

RJIDA Students and Other Stakeholders

Members of the COE’s RJIDA Working Group recognized early on that meaningful progress toward racial justice goals would require sustained, ongoing involvement and support. Further, we knew that to be consistent with the commitment of SCRA to provide funded as well as volunteer assistance for these efforts, some financial support would need to be secured. We began our efforts to seek this support with the modest goal of providing support for a single, quarter-time practicum student, through repurposing our budget from the 2020 Academic Year from our prior priorities to the RJIDA initiative. Recruiting using a general call through several SCRA listserves (e.g., Interest Group, Council, and Committee, SCRA general, SCRA student, and Program Director listerves) as well as through outreach to colleagues and specific programs with a track record of racial justice related pedagogy and research, we received 13 applications from across the Continental U.S. and Australia  for the student practicum position. Applicants were invited to identify one to two supervisors to help guide their training experience and ensure this experience was consistent with students’ training goals (program supervisor) or provide additional content expertise, in cases in which this was desired (in cases in which such supervision might be unavailable, efforts to identify supervisors on student’s behalf were offered as well).  The applications that we received were extremely strong, in terms of alignment of the applicants’ interests and goals, and their depth and breadth of experiences in racial justice-related practice, pedagogy, and research skills. In fact, we were so impressed with the applications that despite our attempts to differentiate quality using structured rating and ranking procedures and multiple meetings to discuss options, the Working Group had difficulty coming to a resolution regarding its top choice. 

Given the wealth of talent available, as well as the range of pressing goals that had been identified for the RJIDA work, in the end, we decided to propose that SCRA fund three students to support the initiative, including the originally funded student and two additional students. Students were to be assigned for each of the three RJIDA areas (Inquiry, Discourse, and Action) based on their individual interests and skills as shown in the first three columns in Table 1. Funding would also be provided for honoraria for the supervisors that the students had selected, all of whom had considerable depth of expertise in racial justice pedagogy and research. In addition, as shown in the last column of Table 1, remaining applicants were asked to participate in a student Advisory Group to meet three times over the course of the funded period from February through August 13 in order to help design and oversee the funded work and plan next steps. We also hoped that Advisory Group students can serve as local champions at their programs to promote dissemination and implementation of RJIDA tools such as the self-assessment. The Executive Committee funded all of these requests. 

Student Introductions

Introductions for each of the three RJIDA Practicum students are provided below along with their advisors and home universities. We are proud to share their diverse backgrounds and strengths with TCP readers and expect that you will see more of them as the initiative proceeds!   

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Hannah Lintag Rebadulla (Supervisor: E.J.R. David, University of Alaska-Anchorage) 

Mabuhay and hello, everyone! My name is Hannah Lintag Rebadulla (she/her). My family is from Pampanga and Visayas, Philippines. I was born in Pohnpei and raised in the Chamoru lands of Guam. I currently live and work on the land of the Dena’ina (Anchorage, AK). I am a second-year doctoral student at the Clinical-Community Psychology Program at the University of Alaska-Anchorage. Our program has an emphasis on Indigenous and rural issues. Broadly, my academic interests include decolonization, oppression, settler colonialism, militarization, and liberation psychology. My people’s history of colonization and resistance is a source of great inspiration to me. I hope to continue to draw inspiration from them as we work on the Racial Justice Inquiry, Discourse, and Action (RJIDA) initiative. I am very honored and humbled to be part of RJIDA. I am also grateful to Dr. E.J.R. David for his support as my practicum supervisor for RJIDA. I look forward to the collaboration, learning, and growth that is to come from this initiative!  

Jamilah Iman Shabazz (Supervisor: Nuria Ciafalo)Photo_2.jpg

Hello! My name is Jamilah Iman Shabazz. I am a California native with much experience traveling the globe. I am 34 years young and currently live in Los Angeles. I am a 3rd year doctoral student studying Depth Psychologies of Communities, Liberation, and Indigenous Ecologies. As a scholar, educator, world traveler, and transformational leader, I am committed to empowering Black and Brown youth and adults to heal from trauma and embrace radical Black joy in order to live out their wildest, most authentic dreams and lives. My life's work is filled with joy, service, community, liberation, and exciting Afro-Adventures globally. My passions are travel, experiential education, interconnection, Africana cultures, African Indigeneity, and the various modes in which communities coexist. Personally and professionally, I strive to live a life which is free flowing, authentic, artistic, guided by spirit, and closely connected to beautiful energies. I am very grateful for the transformative opportunities of personal and professional development which the Racial Justice Inquiry, Discourse, and Action (RJIDA) initiative will offer. I am also honored to have been referred by my Supervisor, Dr. Nuria Ciofalo and selected by the RJIDA selection committee. Using this experience as a framework and launching pad, I hope to successfully create meaningful relationships, make a powerful impact, work with many BIPOC communities, and grow tremendously. 

Rama Agung-Igusti (Supervisor: Christopher Sonn, University of Victoria)Photo_3.jpg

Hi folks! My name is Rama Agung-Igusti (he/him) and I was born on the lands of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation in Naarm (Melbourne), Australia, to white settler and Balinese migrant parents. I’m currently a third year PhD student at Victoria University and my thesis project sits within the area of Critical Community Psychology, and further draws from decolonial, post-colonial, black feminist, and critical race and whiteness theories. I have been interested in the ways individuals and communities respond to and resist racialisation and structural and institutional racisms, how identity and belonging is negotiated in the context of Australia as a settler colonial nation, and ways creative practices are mobilised for social change and the radical imagining of new ways of being and doing. I, alongside my supervisor Dr. Christopher Sonn, am extremely excited to get to work with and learn from a group of amazing and passionate people, sharing in valuable knowledges and experiences, and creating important spaces for change and racial justice.

Next Steps for the RJIDA Initiative 

The COE and RJIDA Working Group have been reaching out to other interest groups, committees, and councils throughout SCRA for feedback and, where there is interest, soliciting representation on the RJIDA Working Group. We are also very interested in partnering with community psychologists at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and other Minority-serving Institutions (MSI), as these settings are important drivers of racial justice pedagogy and can also serve as pipelines for more racially diverse and just community psychology students and faculty in CP and aligned graduate programs. Our RJIDA Working Group members, the practicum students, and other interested volunteers will help lead this outreach work. In addition, we encourage colleagues at these programs to reach out to us if they want to participate in informing and guiding our efforts or simply learn more about the initiative. Our COE meetings on the third Monday of every month are open to anyone with an interest in CP education and we especially encourage participation from anyone with specific interests in the RJIDA Initiative. Our schedule and connection information are available at the following link (SCRA Conference Line Schedule (scra27.org)). Our Working Group meetings are mostly open as well, and we will be communicating the schedule and arrangements for the meetings at the monthly COE meetings and on the SCRA listserve.  A racially and socially just SCRA is in the interests of everyone. The success of the initiative will be determined by the extent to which our efforts reach beyond the COE, RJIDA students, and Advisory group members and every CP academic, practitioner, or student has a potential role in that outcome.  We hope you will join us! If you are interested in finding out more, please contact mason.haber@gmail.com  (Chair, Council on Education).

References

Haber M.G., Kohn-Wood L., and the members of the Council on Education (2018, Summer). Understanding the perceived health of graduate community psychology programs and its relationships with indicators of sustainability, diversity, and rigor:  Findings from the 2016 Survey of Graduate Programs in Community Psychology. The Community Psychologist, 51(3). 

Haber M.G., Neal, Z., Christens, B., Faust, V., Jackson, L., Scott, T.B., and the members of the Council on Educational Programs (2017, Summer). The 2016 Survey of Graduate Programs in Community Psychology: Competencies in research & practice and challenges of training programs. The Community Psychologist, 49(2).

Tatum, B.D. (1997, 2017). Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria (Rev. ed.). NY: Basic Books. 

We the Protesters (n.d.), TheDemands, http://www.thedemands.org.