Speakers presented research on the challenges black and Latino students face in education at a conference Wednesday.
The Black Male Institute hosted its 2017 Think Tank conference, called “Dismantling the School-to-Prison Pipeline,” at UCLA’s Meyer and Renee Luskin Conference Center.
Joanna Navarro, a fourth-year statistics student, introduced an assessment of the impact of the courses “Blacklimated” and “Sister-to-Sister,” both offered by the UCLA’s Black Male Institute.
“Blacklimated” provides first-year African-American men with a safe space to share their experiences and transition to UCLA. “Sister-to-Sister” is a complementary class to “Blacklimated” and helps black first-year women explore their campus experience.
Navarro used statistics and other quantitative methods to show that students in “Blacklimated” and “Sister-to-Sister,” which are retention programs, had higher GPAs and graduation rates.
Khadejah Ray, a fourth-year sociology student, discussed the black superwoman complex. She described black superwoman as self-sacrificing, superhuman and independent.
Black women who embody the black superwoman complex juggle self-care, academics and student leadership, to a point where some become fatigued, Ray added.
Ray said she started her research because of her identity as a first-generation college student and black woman, and because she was part of the “Sister-to-Sister” course.
“I feel like black women are continuously pushed into margins,” Ray said. “Their stories are either not heard or not told by them, and (I wanted to) give voice to black women.”
Other researchers focused on black and Latino men.
Bianca Haro and Kenjus Watson, graduate students in education, said they wanted to see how male sophomores, juniors and seniors in high school who are black and Latino navigate the challenges of growing up in underrepresented communities.
They interviewed 201 disadvantaged black, Latino or mixed-race students from six different schools in Los Angeles County, who were recommended by teachers or administration for strong leadership skills and resilience. Most students had parents who have a bachelor’s degree.
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Haro and Watson found that the men from the study aspired not only to attain financial security and have promising careers, but also to give back to their communities.
“We think about education as the great equalizer,” Haro said. “But lots of students of color do not graduate high school and are not getting the education they deserve.”
Haro added she thinks it is valuable to research what black or Latino students are going through because the current political climate often criminalizes them.
Other keynote speakers at the event included Bryonn Bain, a prison activist and actor, and Pedro Noguera, an education professor who researches the ways in which social and economic factors affect schools.