A Narrative Inquiry of Black Leader Self-Determination for Urban Food Justice:  A Critical Race Theory Perspective


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Virginia Tech


Leaders within the black community are among the most important assets for black people in America. Given all that black Americans have experienced and still endure from social, economic, and political disenfranchisement, it is necessary to explore the values, beliefs, experiences, and practices of current leaders or those organizing for food justice with youth in black communities. This research explored the experiences of self-determination and empowerment of African American community organizers and educators, providing community-based educational opportunities to youth. It also sought to understand the values, beliefs, and experiences of the participant leaders pertaining to community empowerment, youth development, and food justice. A critical race theory (Bell, 1987; Crenshaw, 1989; Delgado and Stefancic, 2012) lens was utilized to conduct a narrative analysis of 10 black leaders in the Triad area of North Carolina. The researcher inquiry involved a narrative interview, using narrative inquiry practices (Saldana, 2016) that were both audio and visually recorded. Narrative inquiry is a methodological tool for capturing and co-interpreting the personal stories of people, their personal experiences and their interpretations (Clandinin, 2007). A narrative videography was developed to reach a wider audience and include the direct experiences of black leaders. Upon completion of the data-collection process, the leaders were brought together to view the video and discuss excerpts from their narratives in a single focus group. The study itself explored each leaders' views on what food justice looks like in their community, how self-determination influences their approach to black youth development for food justice, and their experiences of racial and micro-aggressive barriers to their work. It was found that the participants were very knowledgeable about what they needed to secure food justice in their communities. It was also found that the leaders often experienced racism and sometimes it was internalized racism, which often led them to the work with black youth empowerment and community food justice.



critical race theory, critical pedagogy, community food work, race, racism, power, food justice, self-determination