The Real TO: Bringing Youth Together as Researchers and Change Agents in a Tumultuous Time
Principal Investigator: Bryn King, Stephanie Begun
Co-Investigators: Tara Black, Shelley Craig, Barbara Fallon, Lin Fang, Lance McCready, Tanya Sharpe, Ashley Quinn
Expected Project Timeline: 2019-2021
The Real TO will create spaces for Black youth to authentically represent themselves and their communities while addressing the impacts that anti-Black racism and systemic inequalities have on their lives. Aimed at advancing youth-led public dialogue and knowledge co-creation to build and sustain social bonds and influence social change on issues most important to youth, this project is comprised of three core elements: 1) Facilitating opportunities for youth to articulate their stories and experiences of anti-Black racism through digital storytelling; 2) Hosting a youth-led Instagram Live speaker series; and 3) Creating vehicles to mobilize youth voice and social change inspired by this project, such as policy briefs, position papers, and other research materials, co-authored by youth, researchers, and community members.
Digital storytelling (DS) is the creation of brief videos based on one’s lived experience and provides opportunities for youth to portray themselves in ways they want to be heard. Insights drawn from the creation and content of such narratives will serve as a foundation for driving dialogue through an Instagram Live speaker series. The series will feature Black youth from the Greater Toronto Area who will plan and facilitate conversations with researchers and community about the issues youth are grappling with in the current context. This model demonstrates a “role reversal” as youth will interview adults, in contrast to the ways by which research agendas are typically led by adults. By engaging youth through platforms with which they have comfort, this project will aid Black youth to articulate their roles as leaders and social change-agents, inspire public dialogue, and build community involvement in social action in response to youth-identified priorities for transforming service delivery and policy contexts. In response to the themes for social action that will be identified through screening youths’ digital stories and hosting the speakers series, knowledge will be mobilized through policy briefs, letter-writing campaigns, and other calls to action, co-authored by youth, researchers, and community members. Also of note, the impacts of COVID-19 and anti-Black racism have been felt in particularly acute ways by members of the YAC and our larger team; as such, the founding members of the YWL’S YAC have led the development of this project and will remain central to the design, planning, implementation, and dissemination of The Real TO.