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Past Projects

EMBRace: Engaging, Managing, and Bonding through Race

While pedagogical theories are often focused on youth education, the current project focuses on strengthening the education of caregivers regarding their socialization methods of their adolescent children regarding race. EMBRace, or Engaging, Managing, and Bonding through Race, is a 4-session intervention designed to reduce racial stress and trauma for both parent and youth within the racial socialization process.

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The school-to-prison pipeline is a sad reality for students of color in schools in the United States. It is not a random occurrence, but a systematic tool of systemic oppression, one that has deep roots in the racial history of this country and encourages the disproportionate tracking and incarceration of Black and Brown children and adults. Educators can provide a great deal of protection for their students through their beliefs and practice.  

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Race, Science, and Media

In the United States, race is often considered taboo to talk about and, thus, is often avoided when brought up in conversation. However, racial moments are always happening, as part of all of our personal experiences, and within everything we consume through the media. Unfortunately, the stigma of talking about race leaves many people unable to have meaningful discussions that allow them to clearly and honestly express themselves and resolve racial stress. In schools, this is a particularly troublesome concern; racial stress can cause unhealthy relationships between teachers and students (and between students).  

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Shape Up: Barbers Building Better Brothers is NIH-sponsored research project that randomly assigned 678 African American men into two intervention conditions. One intervention focused on HIV/STI risk reduction and the other on Violence Retaliation Restraint risk reduction. It was a two-day, one-on-one, age-appropriate, culturally tailored, gender-specific intervention for African American young men ages 18 – 24 delivered by barbers in barbershop settings. The primary goals of the intervention are to increase consistent and proper condom use, reduce the number of multiple sexual partners, increase retaliation restraint behaviors and reduce violent behaviors. The intervention consists of two sessions that are delivered over the course of two days, with session one and two occurring exactly two weeks apart. Designed to be educational but entertaining, each session incorporates the theme of “Be A Man,” which instills a sense of responsibility to the male participant to protect themselves, their families, sexual partners, and communities.


The ViRUs (Village Raising Us) Initiative uses a racial literacy model within community partnership research model to develop and deliver trauma recovery for a diversity of leaders in local communities. Those leaders include faith leaders, Black barbers and barbershop owners, or Basketball Coaches and the families, congregants, and children they serve. The faith leaders targeted are those who work in the emergency room of the Hospital of University of Pennsylvania and provide services to random families who have experienced fatal and near-fatal gunshot violence. The barbershop version of ViRUs has been applied in several cities (Memphis and Philadelphia) around the country and retitled, "Oleheads Schoolin' Youngboys Schoolin' Oleheads"
The basic expectations of ViRUs is that leaders, parents, and youth group separately at first to practice the racial literacy strategies of storytelling, journaling, debate, and role-playing racial, gender, faith, and life rejections. Throughout the 10-week intervention program, participants are expected to use racial mindfulness and anxiety reduction as they share stories of trauma and coping.
A key goal of ViRUs is to increase emotional bonding one relationship at a time. A key mantra of the project is "We know it takes a village to raise a child, but what does it take to raise a village?"

Can We Talk

The original focus of Can We Talk was to teach Black middle and high schoolers to identify and negotiate racial conflicts in school and classroom by increasing their Black history knowledge, racial stress management, and racial assertiveness skills. We use storytelling, journaling, relaxation, debating, and role-playing of the racial conflicts and their stressfulness as the methods to increase these skills Stress management was a key pillar of the CWT intervention, as students were asked to identify their feelings about racial conflicts (historical or contemporary), the effects on their bodies, and to use relaxation and breathing to relax those stressed-out bodily effects. The assertiveness training involves having students respond differently in racially insulting conflicts they have shared from storytelling and journaling, by speaking phrases or comeback responses that (1) were not over-reactions or under-reactions to the insult; (2) demonstrate they understood the racial tension in the conflict; (3) would not put them in greater risk of school failure; and (4) empowered them to defend their dignity from insult. Currently, CWT is being used to train educators to learn the same skills described above and navigate face-to-face racial conflicts involving peers and students in school and university settings.