University of Louisville Magazine

FALL 2017

The University of Louisville Alumni Magazine: for alumni, faculty, staff, students and anyone that is a UofL Cardinal fan.

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37 FALL 2017 they couldn't rely on research alone. They needed the expertise of the community. In this case, many of the experts were teenagers. The center chose a cohort of eight young people between the ages of 16 and 24 from West Louisville to be Youth Violence Pre- vention Fellows. The fellows, along with YVPRC and community partners, are designing and implementing a three-year social-norming campaign targeted at get- ting their peers to change long-held behav- iors, and boost pride in their community and their culture. "Science tells us that social norms affect individual behavior," Wendel said. "If we think people who are like us act a certain way or expect us to act a certain way in a specific situation, we're more likely to act that way — whether we agree with it or not. "But sometimes, our perceptions of those norms are inaccurate," she added. "Media often make things worse by only portraying negative images and narratives of minority populations, while the positive images of the population remain unseen." The social-norming campaign, called "Pride, Peace, Prevention," launched in spring 2017 and uses social media, televi- sion and radio ads, bus shelter signs and billboards to connect youth with positive messages and imagery relative to African Americans. The fellows also use local com- munity events, like block parties and the Dirt Bowl, an annual West Louisville bas- ketball tournament, as opportunities to engage the community in conversation. "We couldn't do this without the fellows," Wendel said. "We want to equip them and empower them to see they can rally people for change." Putting it in perspective Before the fellows could share the cam- paign message with their peers they needed to build pride in themselves by gaining a more accurate understanding of their race and culture. They participated in ses- sions to raise their critical consciousness, including those that connected historical facts with current context and taught them how to dispel myths surrounding what it means to be an African American youth. The fellows spent hours researching African and world history, learning about an African heritage that reveals a lineage of royal families, kingdoms and empires, and developments and contributions to the fields of medicine, science and technology. They immersed themselves in stories that history books often gloss over, including how Afri- can Americans contributed to building the infrastructure and economic capital of the United States through slave labor. They grew their understanding of mod- ern-day African American hidden fig- ures, coupled with a once-in-a-lifetime experience to take part in the dedication ceremony of the Smithsonian National Museum for African American History and Culture, and be among the first to encounter hands-on exhibits about the fight against racial injustice throughout American history. It was important for the fellows to under- stand the history of policies and practices, such as racial segregation and redlining, that resulted in West Louisville looking the way it does and its residents experiencing the struggles they experience, Ingram said. "A person doesn't wake up and say 'I want to kill someone and go to jail'," said 17-year- old Jailen Leavell, one of the fellows. "History is our playbook," said another fellow, Elijah Thomas, 19. "It's very key in regards to progression on all fronts. It helps us get down to the root of what facilitates our destruction." The imagery for the Pride, Peace, Preven- tion campaign shows the fellows recreating Neely and Thomas stop to talk to a friend who was driving by.

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