Listen: Edwin Mayorga on Combating Trauma in Latinx Youth
This fall, Assistant Professor of Educational Studies Edwin Mayorga gave a faculty lecture, “Conocimiento y curación: Latinx youth understanding and combating their own trauma through PAR entremundos”. He explains how his Barrio Education Project manifested and how it relates to his participatory action research between worlds.
“We've done a lot of work around the collectivity, building, and the conocimiento and educating and exposing young people to their own histories," he says. "We're also looking at Philadelphia really closely as a site of political struggle and inequity and oppression as well as a richness of what native scholars have talked about survival and that I talk about as supervivencia, a capacity to live beyond a survivable name and that people every day have continued to resist, to move, and to change things in their own locations and communities."
Mayorga identifies as a parent-educator-scholar-activist, and his work focuses on examining the intersections of education policy, urban development, critical pedagogy, and Latinx communities. He works through a critical participatory action research framework that he applies to varying degrees in a number of projects, including the Education in our Barrios Project (#BarrioEdProj); the Community, Schools, College Partnership study; and the Ethnic Studies Philadelphia project (#EthnicStudiesPHL). He works with his students to manage #CritEdPol, an undergraduate online journal of Critical Education Policy Studies. Mayorga is also a participant of the Caucus of Working Educators in Philadelphia, a member of the National Latino Education Research & Policy Project, and a community advisory board member of the Participatory Action Research Center for Education Organizing.
Lisa Smulyan: Hi, everybody. I think we're going to get started. My name is Lisa Smulyan. I'm in the Department of Educational Studies. And it's my pleasure today to introduce you to Edwin Mayorga. It feels like Edwin is a pretty well-known figure around campus, in activist circles, in Philadelphia education circles, and probably in a number of tech areas in Southern California.
And my guess is that each of us knows some strand of his work as a parent, scholar, teacher, activist as we like to call him and he calls himself. He himself has described his work as a braiding together of many approaches on which he draws. And I might add that he pushes in new directions. But I've decided that braiding is too simple a metaphor for what Edwin actually does. And so I'm going to try something else.
I recently visited the Shelburne Museum in Vermont, and I have lots of other commentary on the Shelburne Museum and I'd be happy to share that with you. It's the whitest place I've ever been. But while I was there, the best thing there was the textile exhibit. And while I was there, I saw these two amazing quilts and they were called zigzag quilts. And I kept going through the quilts and coming back to these two quilts because they were so vibrant.
And so I'll try and describe to you a little about what they looked like. So they were made of two by four, but they weren't squares, they were kind of diamond shapes, and these were connected to each other and then went like this. So some of you are nodding. You know about quilts. And each one is juxtaposed directly, each zigzag is juxtaposed directly on the next one. There's no space in between them. So it's sort of this ... One of them was all different colors of reds and purples. And they zigzag up and your eye starts following one zigzag, and then you notice that there's another piece of fabric over here that's just like the one over here and your eye starts going up another zigzag. And then you back off and you get this whole picture that's incredibly complicated and sophisticated, made up of these zigzags.
So I've decided that that might be an interesting metaphor for Edwin's work, and I just want to play that out for just a minute. So there's a way in which the different strands of Edwin's work, which include research, teaching, publication, community activism, are both individual strands but woven together in a very interesting patten. So for example, if you start to read some of his theoretical work about the race radical framework he uses to examine urban educational policy, Latinx education, ethnic studies, teaching for social justice, as you start to examine that theoretical work, you realize that it's intricately connected to another zigzag over here. And that's the pattern that focus on his engagement and participatory and collaborative research alongside of Press Community.
So there might be a connection of a piece of cloth or the connection of certain zigs connected to zags. And if you follow that one, the community participatory action research zigzag for a little while, you'll realize that there's another zigzag that has some of the same pieces of cloth in that one, and it's the one that represents his work with students as a professor, a co-researcher, a co-writer, and an organizer. And that that one actually, the zigzag of his work with students, actually carries pieces of the theoretical frame and the participatory action research that he's doing.
And then if you track back and you look at the action research that he's doing that he'll talk about with us today, that he's doing with high school students in this Barrio project or with the K12 educators in the community schools and colleges partnership project that he's currently starting, you'll see that he is always teaching, always advocating, and always working for change.
And then you have his digital work, which includes some of his scholarship but also his work creating a digital syllabus for our introduction to education course and the development and continuation of the online journal of critical education policy studies here at Swarthmore. And you see that digital work popping across each of the places, each of the other patterns in the quilt of his work.
And so Edwin once wrote that writing is a stopping point in a longer arch of inquiry that is the ... Sorry. Writing is a stopping point in a longer arch of inquiry that the author is following. And I want to suggest that, in the same way, his work is a set of zigzags and he does pop around sometimes. So the zigzag metaphor works pretty well for Edwin. But these zigzags are united just as the quilt pattern is united by a set of values, approaches, and commitments.
So anyway, if all that is too abstract and esoteric, I can also tell you some of the facts. Edwin received his BA at the University of California in San Diego, his masters in teaching at Teachers College Columbia, and his PhD at the graduate center at the City University of New York. He taught elementary school in the New York City public school district and had taught at Hunter and NYU prior to coming to Swarthmore. I'm not going to detail his CV. He's received multiple awards and grants for his work. He's published articles, book chapters, and a co-edited book that's now in its second edition or about to be in its second edition called "What's Race Got to Do With It: How Current School Reform Policy Maintains Racial and Economic Inequality."
I learn something new from Edwin every time we talk, so I'm happy to sit down and welcome him forward so that I can continue to do that. Thank you.
Edwin Mayorga: Thank you to all of you for coming out and for indulging me on this really beautiful actual ... or really beautiful, kind of fall, winter-ish day. I don't know. It depends on who you're talking to.
But I will try to be ... Well, we'll see. Let me not preface it by saying ... I was about to say, "Let me try to be brief," but yeah, I don't know. Sometimes I talk a lot as I am zigzagging around. And I actually felt as though, "Yes, that's exactly how my mind works," which is scary sometimes. And yeah, sometimes I find myself in these sunken places and I'm just like, "What just happened?" But here we are, and here we are.
So ... But my talk today is Conocimiento y curacion: Latinx youth understanding and combating their own trauma through PAR entremundos. As per my practice, I also want to recognize the land. We want to acknowledge or I want to acknowledge that we're presently occupying the traditional territory of the Lenni Lenape people. And making this land acknowledge, I express our gratitude and appreciation to those whose territory we are on. And we honor the indigenous people who have been living and working on the land through time and memorial. As we contemplate Latinx youth and participatory action research, mental health, the impossibility of freedom on stolen land should never be far from our thoughts and our actions.
I also want to just take a moment to recognize or acknowledge a few important people in my life and I think in the life of this college and the community and really in the world. So I do want to recognize and thank the college for its support in my sabbatical leave and its ongoing support as an institution for the work that I think the college may not always understand what I'm doing but they seem to say, "Well, that sounds good, so go with it." It's like, "Okay. Well, I'm going to keep trying and I'm going to keep doing things until someone says no." And so so far, no one has said absolutely not yet, but it's early, it's early. The Ed Studies department and the Latin American/Latino Studies program, yeah, my community, my ride or dies, I appreciate all of you for your ongoing care and support and really models of what it is to be good colleagues and friends and family.
I think I want to also recognize my two most important people in my life which is my family, my spouse Jenn and my son who has his back turned to us right and has his headphones on. Clearly, he's deeply interested in what I'm about to talk about. He just knows that I go off to meetings and do things, and then students start to trickle into our house and they're like, "Oh yeah." And then he has more concern about them than ... He's like, "Is Karen going to be home okay? Is she going to get home okay?" And it's like, "Why don't you care about me that way?" But anyway. But thank you to both of you for just really being with me over the years and ... Yeah, this doctoral thing is a journey. Scholarship and research and activism are often journeys that run in contradiction to one another. So I deeply appreciate all of that.
And then finally, to the Barrio Education Project or Barrio Ed Project, co-researches, undergrads from Swarthmore, Amit, Roberto Hermenes Fargas, Robby, Michelle McGuane who's out there ... thank you, Michelle ... Ploy Promrat, Caitlin Betheas, our two project coordinators Karen Avila and Alondra Rosales, as well as some Bryn Mawr and Haverford students, and most importantly the high school youth of Philadelphia. Their brilliance, vulnerabilities, and commitment to inquiry and justice inspire and remind me that the struggle is truly, truly beautiful as much as it is difficult and arduous. But I wouldn't want to be struggling with anyone else but these youth because they give us all life. So thank you all.
The summer of 2015 was our first summer, or my first summer here, my family's first summer here as faculty members. And I had tried my very best to concoct a summer research institute for Latinx youth to develop skills around engaging their neighborhood and asking important questions about what's affecting their own lives and their communities' lives, families' lives. So the spring before, I'd gone about recruiting at some different schools and talking to people, and I'm like, "I need some Latinx youth. I have this Latinx focus project. It's open to anyone, but this is who I'm looking for." And so I had a few young people who dared to do this without pay, no summer stipend, nothing. We are still working on that.
We had one week of complicated-ness of just how does one get to Swarthmore, where is Swarthmore, what is Swarthmore. And it's north and south Philly Latinx youth who ... The short of it is they were game, right? They just didn't know what they were getting into. They didn't even know where they were going. We bring them here, we spend a week engaging in different kinds of questions, community building work that was initiated and designed through conversation between myself and the college students. But the college students had taken on this gargantuan role of being both leaders and collaborators and mentors to young people who are not that much younger than them but were worlds apart in experience and perspective and what was happening.
And so at the end of that week, Rose Estrella, who continues to actually be part of the project now and is a college student at the Community College of Philadelphia, in a kind of last gasp goodbye, she said, "Thank you for treating us like humans." This is where the project and what I wanted to talk about today starts. It struck me because I knew what I was about, right? I knew what I was committed to. I knew that the struggles and the issues that Latinx communities, Latinx youth face in this country are enormous and daunting. I also know that those communities are beautiful and rich with culture, language, style, brilliance, scholarly brilliance, all these different ways that, warts and all, this was this beautiful community that was also always on the brink of ... or continually at the intersections of oppression.
And so the project itself I think was something that really mattered to me that we were going to do this alongside young people and tap into their brilliance or what Maxine Green, philosopher, talked about as releasing the imagination, right? It was just a matter of how do we create spaces to release that imagination, release that power that already exists in these young people.
But I was taken about by this comment from Rose Estrella because it made me think about the kind of continual, something that I had lived myself but had to be reminded again and again, the continual dehumanization, the process of dehumanization that young people face not just in schools, although certainly that is a focus of mine and is a question, but that it's something that happens to them on the daily in their lives, on the street, in their friendships, in their relationships, and that they have also inherited these kinds of processes of dehumanization.
And what I'm trying to move towards is these notions of trauma that they experience and that they're internalizing. And that then becomes multi-generational and ongoing. And I was starting to just ... it struck me, right, because here was this person who had spent this whole week with us and I had gotten to know her or them and just continually positive and chipper and asking all the questions. But this at the end I think of that first week is what mattered to her, is that she was treated in a way that was not only respectful and dignified but that saw her in the multiple dimensions in which I think we all have a right to be seen and to be appreciated and respected.
And so that little comment moved the entire project into an exploration of mental health. And so let me talk a little bit about the project. I feel like I've already talked about it some. But the Barrio Education Project, and here our first two cohorts and now we're kind of moving into our third cohort now, the project was my dissertation project and it started with high school youth ... or I'm sorry, college age youth in New York City, East Harlem, and El Barrio.
And I came here and got this job and trying to figure out what to do, and I knew I wanted to move the project with me. But it was going to have to look different because we were not really anywhere near a Latinx community of substantial size, and so wanting to do this kind of work. And so in 2015, those young rockstars who probably had no idea what they were getting into, we had six undergrads and seven high school youth from charter high schools and public high schools in north and south Philadelphia.
And the idea here is that at the heart of it is participatory action research, and I'll talk about that in a little bit. But in participatory action research, the key to me is that the people who are involved, the communities that are disproportionately affected by these kinds of things that we talk about in academia as in the abstract, conceptualizing and thinking about intersecting lines of oppression, that those communities that are directly affected by those things in their lives are the people that are the greatest holders of knowledge, the greatest producers of knowledge, and that through partnership rather than research kind of going and do research on people, the idea is coming with questions and a commitment, a commitment to being engaged with people in a way that is collaborative in its orientation and that is focused on asking those questions in a way that is not asymmetrical power relationships but ones of working towards equity and solidarity.
And so that's what participatory action research at its kind of basic atomic level for me, that's what it's about. And so Barrio Education Project is the manifestation of that little kernel of thought. I'm going to go just quickly around this, but I did want to just contextualize a little bit. Participatory action research has seen many different kinds of iterations. And I know these are super tiny so I'm just going to talk about these really quickly.
But for me, the why Latinx communities in particular, and I feel like I've already shed some light on why the community is important and identifying myself as a Latinx Asian and all of the complexities of what that means ... or a Chino Latino. But those communities in Philadelphia, what I came to discover is in my own ... 'cause I spent ... I really like Philadelphia, but I hadn't really spent a ton of time there. It's a relatively small population compared to the larger metropolitan region. And yet we're looking at ... let me see if ... We're looking at nearly a million people, 700 ... this was back in 2015, 2014, this data that was based off of 2010 census data. But even including New Jersey and some of the surrounding counties, we're looking at about 800,000 people.
With that said, now if we zero in on Philadelphia, educational achievement, some of our kind of traditional metrics around all communities when we're looking at educational attainment as well as wealth, personal wage, earnings and so on, we have some of the lowest if not the lowest numbers in terms of just kind of outcomes. And we have the largest percentage of people living in poverty in the city, but we're often invisible despite these kinds of statistical realities. How we are framed, how Latinx communities are seen or not seen is one of very much continually on the margins.
And I'll just go back for a moment. The other point to point to ... I'm sorry, the other thing I wanted to point to is the diversity of the Latinx ... the complexity of the Latinx population here. Yes, historically, it's been primarily Puerto Rican and have been here multiple generations and part of the migration. And we are now seeing a new influx of Puerto Ricans or a growing influx because of the hurricane and its both economic and social and psychological impact.
But in the last 25, 30 years, it's also become Aurora Camacho de Schmidt, our esteemed colleague here, has pointed to this in her work around the rapid growth of the Mexican community as well as the Central American, Dominican communities. And so you've got ... And let's remember that Latinx and Latino, those kinds of identities, are much more complicated and is actually part of the reason that I think we have a hard time in the larger scheme of things, and from policy perspectives that's part of my interest, in trying to encapsulate what are the needs and what are the actual conditions and what are things people are actually facing.
But in doing that, in recognizing that it's fragile, it's a politically contested term even to invoke something like Latinx as a term to capture a very diverse population, what is does though is that it allows us to, if we think about it politically I'm going to argue, it allows us to see new opportunities and possibilities of solidarity and connection and to also then really make sense of how these kinds of barrios, these neighborhoods, come into being and to take on a characteristic that reflects that diversity.
And for me, the question is how do we not only shed light or raise awareness but actually go about the doing the kind of political and academic and scholarly work that would impact change, because it's clear that no matter how we feel about its complexities or our lack of understanding of what that population is, in real life there is a great deal of suffering that is happening. And so we need to recognize that and not just address it but combat it, is what I'm trying to argue here.
So PAR entremundos very quickly. As I talked about the kind of kernel of it, now PAR entremundos is a particular tradition of participatory action research that is emerging, and it's primarily through this book that actually just got published and I wrote a chapter about Barrio Education Project in the book. But PAR entremundos is an attempt to look at participatory action research from a global south perspective, a southern hemispheric perspective.
And so here are some of the emerging principles, and it's by Ayala et al, and I'm happy to share the citation. I apologize I didn't put it there. But some of the guiding principles are the notion of participation, that is collaborative as I had mentioned, that it is a commitment to breaking down those asymmetrical power relationship, that it's focused on critical inquiry, that collectively we ask these particular questions that problematize those things that have been seen as normative, and that it's from the perspective of the people that are most directly affected by it, that its knowledge co-construction through that inquiry we collaboratively think about and develop an analysis, an understanding, and share that knowledge with others.
There's a recognition of power within so that power is seen and understood in ways that there are power dynamics within the group, but then how we think about leveraging power as we work out into the world. The idea of indigenous cosmologies, so indigenous traditions across the hemisphere and how those inform our kinds of spiritual, affective, cultural, political connectivity and ultimately our way of thinking and working through these things. Creative phrases, so the idea that traditionally we think of research as this in an article somewhere or on a shelf or now a digital folder somewhere. The idea here is that research and action and connectivity are inherently creative processes, one of production, creation, expression, love and that those things are premised on the goal or the desire for transformative action, not just kinds of inclusion but the actual re-imagination and restructuring of social relationships and what that means for the communities that we're most directly a part of but globally and thinking about those kinds of things.
And then finally, that it's conciencia, consciousness, critical consciousness for the collective so that, yes, we understand we have individual and unique needs but the spirit of PAR entremundos, of participatory action research between worlds, is one of consciousness through collectivity and that we are thinking and continually working together.
Those are just some of the kind of roots of it. Now, what I wanted to share just very briefly here is los Americas. So PAR entremundos is absolutely about research, but in thinking about that and consciousness, critical consciousness, it's about teaching. And so that's the other, the kind of after the colon of this book, actually is a pedagogy of the Americas. And so what does it mean for us? And the three pieces I've presented here is the kind of working ideas that Barrio Education project were focused on.
One is colectividad, collectivity, conocimiento, or critical consciousness, coming to know, and movimiento, this idea of action, which are all three components that are rooted in intersecting ways to the guiding principles of PAR entremundos.
I wanted to talk today just very briefly about conocimiento, and what I'm trying to suggest or frame is a kind of process that the group has gone through in thinking about this work, because I'll come back to this previous little graph or visualization and I'll come back to it because it's changed, specifically thinking around mental health. But conocimiento, just very briefly, so the curriculum, the summer institute, and it's a year long ... I didn't say this. It's a year long commitment for the young people to participate in the project. Many of them have continued to stay. It's three or four years later. They seem to not go away, which is really interesting. Yeah, one of them called me, "You're like that funny uncle that everyone ... that funny tio that everybody has that just kind of is around and you can talk to you." And it's like, "I forget you're an academic." And I'm like, "Thanks, I guess."
But the idea of conocimiento comes ... I draw from Gloria Anzaldua's work around ... it's a theory of consciousness in motion where the inner life of the mind and the spirit is connected to the outer worlds of action within the struggle for social change. So consciousness from this perspective is dynamic, it's in motion, it's continually moving, and it works in fits and starts and successes and struggles but it's continually in motion. Now, what direction? To be determined.
Now, thinking about consciousness or conocimiento, thinking about it in pedagogical ways, what does this allow us to see? And here I want to reference in PAR entremundos, we talk about the idea of indigenous cosmologies as I had mentioned, but three kind of basic questions. Quien soy yo, who am I, two, que es la vida, what is life. I feel like that's taken on a new kind of accent in working with young people, what is life. As well as que pretendo de la vida, what do I seek from life. And when we ask that, while we say I, it's also a collective kind of we that we are asking and thinking about.
And so this was the crux of our curriculum that we have been engaging young people in over these last three years. And here, I'm just kind of including one very early example. We did some collage work, and thank you to the art department and many of you for donating these old magazines that continue to be part of our work here. But it was a ... this example that revolved around the quien soy yo. So this particular young person was undocumented, an undocumented high school student, Mexicana, and was just coming into her own queer identity as well. And so the opportunity to assemble this and share this became an important initial moment to engaging and building with the other communities so that people got to know one another.
As the curriculum developed and we did the work over time, I come back to what Rose Estrella had told me or had mentioned to me at the end of our summer institute that first year. What it pushed us to think about is, as participatory action research projects work, we develop a collective research project where everyone is not only a holder of knowledge but they are trained in doing a variety of different kinds of skills, research skills, and then co-developing a research project.
And so our research project is one that is focused on wellness and trauma. We're looking at Latinx youth mental health. And so that came from that little question and listening closely to young people, what their needs were, what their interests were, what their struggles were, what was stressful for them. And so that informed the kind of work that we were trying to do.
And so what does it mean then for us to think about wellness and trauma? And what we have been trying to develop is what I awkwardly am calling the ecological Latinx feminist framework. Trademark. So as PAR entremundos is in motion so is our theorizing, so is our framework. And so in theorizing about that, there are three things that we are thinking about though, three primary things. One is that we see mental health and wellness as individual and collective processes, so they exist within intersecting forms of oppression, they never exist outside of that. And so how then do we think about those things in ways that are ... and there's been a turn in mental health work in recent years around looking at social determinants of health, looking at neighborhood, environment, economic stability, health and healthcare, education, social and community context and that those things actually matter. So continuing to push that, and that's our starting point, is thinking about those things that situate it.
We also center the historical and current realities of Latinx communities and youth in this country, what does it mean politically, economically, racially, in terms of gender, how do we think about those things. So we center them. Rather than make them an object of study, we think about them as something that grounds and centers our work as we go back and kind of immerse ourselves in a feedback loop of thinking about that same thing that we're studying at the same time that it is informing what we're doing.
And that finally wellness is achieved by simultaneous, and here we're drawing from Prilleltensky, that a simultaneous balance and contextually sensitive satisfaction of personal, relational, and collective needs. So if we think about wellness in this way, what different ... Let's think about wellness in very three dimensional kinds of ways and that those things are not necessarily solely on the onus of the individual person and their state of mental health, but that we need to think about the ecology of mental health and wellness as something that not only we must recognize and think about but that actually those are some of the key issues that need to be dealt with and addressed and transformed.
So related to that is just this notion of trauma. Trauma is the emotional, psychological, and physiological residue left over from heightened stress that accompanies experience of threat, violence, and life-changing events. Those traumatic conditions occur on multiple levels and, from our perspective, combating it will require that we ... I'm sorry. It will require combating those social determinants that produce the traumas related to mental health and wellness outcomes. So it's not a foregone conclusion and it's not something that individual ... Certainly, I'm not suggesting that the individual struggles that we face or that the struggles that we face as individuals are not important and by no means not our reality. But what I am suggesting is that, when we hyper-focus on that and try to perhaps address it solely with medication or have a kind of reductive understanding of it, we're actually missing some of these huge factors that shape that individual's mental health and well-being and entire community's mental health and well-being.
So I'm not going to go into all of these, but these are just some different forms of trauma, single and incident kind of trauma, complex and repetitive trauma, developmental, intergenerational, historical kinds of trauma. A recent study actually showed that nearly four in five Latinx youth suffer at least one traumatic childhood experience like poverty, abuse, lack in proper care and support and environment for healthy development. And over 20% of Latinx youth children experience around four forms of intersecting traumatic experiences in their early childhood kinds of ... from between the ages of zero and about 12.
So the issues are real. We need to think about how to address them. And so the other aspect, and this is where the curriculum has started to change, is rejecting the curriculum but actually reframing or recasting the curriculum and thinking about how the curriculum and the participation itself in a project like this becomes a form of curacion, a form of healing. What does this kind of work do for our young people to be engaged in this way?
Now, the literature will talk about civic engagement and that if people volunteer more their mental health kinds of situations or wellness will be better. And I'm not negating that. That's absolutely true, or I feel that it's absolutely true. What I'm suggesting though is that the kind of healing that is needed for these kinds of conditions that young people are facing, that communities are facing, require something more transformative and that participatory action research is one potential avenue for people to exercise that kind of thinking, skill set development, identity and leadership development that will allow them to both navigate their own struggles and challenges but also then involve themselves in trying to really combat those larger social determinants.
In the work that we've done ... And so what we did in terms of as we were making the shift is to pay attention to ... Participatory action research has what I think about as two aspects of them. One is an interior aspect, the other is an exterior aspect. The interior work is the work that you're actually doing within the group, and that in itself is a research project, a lifelong research project, that is ongoing and messy and goes in all kinds of different directions. And then there's the exterior project, the project that the group has designed and what kinds of questions and going out into the world more directly shape. And they're always inextricably bound to each other, this interior and exterior.
But what we paid attention to in these first two years, two and half years of the project is the interior of this project. And so what we found through notes, observations, student writing reflections, their art, their cultural production that they developed, here's some of the key things or themes that we started to find in their experience as they relate to mental health and trauma.
One, they experienced trauma across environments, so in school, at home, in the neighborhood, at work. So they're experiencing it, and for some of our students, particularly undocumented ones, many of them work at night, in the middle of the night, washing dishes. And so things like sleep are nonexistent for young people like this, and yet they still came to to this work, to come to do this work. And so they saw something in being able to think about these things.
We also found that PAR does provide a space for humanization by centering young people and seeing them as humans, for treating people like humans to bring us back to Rose Estrella. It provides a space, both a model and a space of how to humanize one another, and that that as a starting point is very different from the starting point that they have in all of these other contexts.
Two, that critical consciousness as a pedagogy, as an experience, is vital to young people and how they are thinking about the world. And it's not just this idea of imposing a kind of critical thought but more thinking about it as an invitation to thinking critically, because they're already thinking critically about their world. They understand power dynamics, especially when it's like adult authorities. What is this nonsense? And people don't fear calling me out on things. I saw Karen earlier somewhere. I'm like, "There's no fear in calling me out on things," and that's welcomed. And it's thinking about how that becomes ... how we formalize that as a practice and honor that as a practice.
Now, just very quickly in terms of trauma across the environments, I talked about some of these things. A couple other pieces. One is how they experience violence in the administration, their relationships at school, and the curriculum itself. While some of the students are at schools that actually have Latinx studies as part of their curriculum, most of them didn't. And even in those contexts where there was Latinx studies offered as part of their curriculum, where they actually saw themselves in the curriculum, it was often very superficial. Or it was offered their ninth grade year and then never again. And so seeing it over and over is one of the key pieces I think. And we started to read it as a kind of form of violence, where people were being what I gruesomely called dismemberment. They are dismembered from their history, they are dismembered relationally from each other. So those kinds of ...
What created these kind of subtle, historical kinds of trauma. And then a lack of visibility as intersectional individuals, they felt as young people not only were they not seen but even when they were seen are called out. It was always for one narrow aspect of who they were as whole people. And so for them, it was often something that they would just come back and say, "Man, so and so, the way they were talking to me and this ..."
And many of them were very successful in school or have been successful in school, and yet they were seen ... and this was particularly true in the kind of college going, everyone's going to college mantra oriented schools, which both of them ... Two sites that we were in, one of them more so than the other, was very focused on that. But the young people felt that. They felt like they were just an outcomes indicator. So the more they got all of us to go to college, the more they had us on the cover of propaganda and all that kind of thing. That's all they were just seen as, and they felt that as a dehumanizing process. And it was happening to them every single day.
So what this has shown us thus far in our research is that dehumanization is an everyday process and that it's part of a series, an ecology of complex repetitive kinds of trauma that young people are experiencing. They don't always have the language to describe it, to talk about it. And often it becomes this emotional, almost a silencing. It becomes another form of violence because there is so much going on that it silences them in certain moments, unless you transform the context where you center humanity, you center humanization. And that's where we're trying to move.
And so this is where we're moving in this graph is, yes, we certainly are continuing to be committed to colectividad and conocimiento and movimiento, social movement, but that we are recasting that as a larger process of healing and what does this mean for young people.
The last piece, and this is where we're going next steps. So we've done a lot of work around the collectivity, building, and the conocimiento and educating and exposing young people to their own histories and also looking at Philadelphia really closely as a site of political struggle and inequity and oppression, as well as a richness of what native scholars have talked about survival and that I talk about as supervivencia, a capacity to live beyond a survivable name and that people every day have continued to resist, to move, and to change things in their own locations and communities and that those histories need to be honored.
And the other part of it is moving young people into that, into not only experiencing that but thinking about it. So I actually really ... I'll go back to Elizabeth Yeampierre who is a director of an organization called UPROSE, which is a climate justice group that came out of the Latinx community in Brooklyn, New York. And so on her Twitter, I was like, "Oh my goodness." So she talked about the idea that we repurpose our trauma into activism, into caregiving, into pushing against injustice everywhere, despite not telling our own stories because we've never forgotten. There is no longer any space for compromise in this country. You either believe in justice or you don't.
And what I found inspiring about that is that connection as a climate justice advocate, to see that climate justice isn't just about the environment in the kind of natural physical science but really thinking about how the climate justice movement is about all of us and it's about the historical aspect of it, the psychological and emotional aspects of it.
And so that's what we're trying to do in helping young people to move towards thinking about how we can use research to inform our movement. And so we'll end here. And what we're trying to do or what's next is we are conducting, hopefully soon, a Philadelphia Latinx youth mental health survey. And what we're interested in is really moving that interior work that we have done into the exterior and trying to document and think about what are Latinx youth in particular, ages 16 to 24, facing, what are the obstacles, what are the challenges, where do they feel safe, where do they feel powerful.
And so moving in that direction, what we hope to then do is use that research, one, to amplify our voice and be taken seriously but also to have an impact on policy, on community relationships, developing and working with other youth around these issues, to hopefully create a more just world and a more just community.
So I thank you for your time. So you can follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. So follow us, talk to us, tag us. But thank you for your time, and I'll take some questions, I guess.