Empowering High-Risk Males Through Street Outreach
Cosey Gay, Franklin N Cosey
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Violence continues to be a leading cause of death and injury for men of color in the United States (CDC, 2016). Violent crime rates have remained high in low-income communities of color in Chicago over the past 40 years (Papachristos, 2013; Sampson, 2012). Some researchers argue that the persistent rates of violence in communities on the south and west sides of Chicago are inextricably tied to multiple generations of structural inequities (Moore, 2016; Sharkey, 2008). This study uses Freire’s (1970) Pedagogy of the Oppressed and Zimmerman’s (2000) Psychological Empowerment Theory to construct a conceptual framework to explain the processes involved in how Cure Violence outreach workers (n=4) engage a sample of males (n=40), at high-risk for violent victimization and perpetration, to shed the stigma of being a gangster and a criminal. The outreach workers used their cultural capital as a lure to draw in high-risk males, but a dominant theme was that outreach workers’ human capital kept the high-risk males engaged in activities that interrupted not only violence but also the hyper-isolation that the males had previously used to remain safe. The high-risk males explained that witnessing, imagining, and experiencing outreach workers connecting them to social and job opportunities, as well as handling conflict in non-violent ways, helped them feel a sense of self-control, self-efficacy, and competence that they can live a non-violent life. Interview participants described behavior change as small steps that required persistence from outreach workers and accountability from the high-risk males.
SubjectViolence, Urban, Youth, Prevention