Date of Graduation

Spring 5-18-2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Human Rights Education (HRE)


School of Education


International and Multicultural Education (IME)

First Advisor

Dr. Monisha Bajaj


Many urban youth in the United States live in what are identified as high stress neighborhoods, where trauma is a normative reality within which common life themes permeate. Colloquially, the communities in these high stress areas reclaim space by naming them as hoods, barrios and ghettos. However, depending on one’s perception, these words can have a negative connotation. Even when these communities hold various forms of community cultural wealth and capital, urban narratives are often dominated by false common perceptions that associate these spaces with the violence that occurs within them. There is a need for spaces that produce counter narratives to the common perceptions of urban environments as persistent sites of violence, one that recognizes violence exists, but focuses on the vibrancy of the community and its cultural wealth, emphasizing the community’s capital as a solution. It is important to focus on the untapped resources of a community when formulating solutions to address challenges within them.

Various efforts rooted in community resiliency exist in order to address issues of social inequality, poverty, economic disparity and political/civic engagement. The solution to overcoming community struggle lies in building political awareness in young people and moving them away from false consciousness. The building of political consciousness does not occur from mindful quiet sitting alone but rather is created by making space to reflect and develop critical awareness of how and what we think or do. Within the realm of false consciousness there people are unaware of the complex realities that exist beyond the surface and thus believe myths about how the world is constructed. Those myths then act to reinforce debilitating ideas about life conditions. False consciousness concludes that negative social conditions are absolute. Moving away from deficit narratives also requires a commitment to praxis (Freire, 1970, p. 127). Praxis can be described as a process of reflection and action. Within that process of praxis, we can build knowledge about ourselves in relation to the world. For young folks, this can also lead to the acknowledgement that social structures are changeable and that as social structures change, they too change and this can lead to an improved quality of life.