The Bronzeville Youth Identity Collaborative

(UChicago Hillel and the Harris School of Public Policy)

The Milgrom Educational Innovation Challenge grant awarded to UChicago Hillel and the Harris School of Public Policy in partnership with Bright Stars Community Outreach affords access to many institutional and academic resources that provide guidelines for how to hold thoughtful conversation that address both internalized oppression and divisions between minority groups.

The goal of the Bronzeville Youth Identity Collaborative is to create positive self-image in CPS students that will lead them to academic and professional success. These students, in partnership with UChicago students from diverse backgrounds, will use methods of innovation to guide students to self-produce media that address prejudice and internalized oppression within under-resourced communities. Children often grow up to be who they are told that they are. This is the core, non-economic factor behind the perpetuation of poverty, hopelessness and joblessness in under-resourced communities. A positive self-image is one of the core determining factors of success in school and the work place.

Internalized oppression is a concept often mentioned in social justice circles, but rarely dissected to understand the true origin and effects upon the community. It is important to understand that today’s high school students are bombarded with various forms of communication due to the increased frequency of children within their age range possessing cell phones combined with the explosion of social media website creation/usage in the last twenty years. By engaging in social media, high school students receive hundreds of messages daily on platforms such as Facebook and Instagram alone. According to Common Sense Media, teens spend an average of nine hours a day online.

Often, these messages do not contain positive images or representation of diversity in terms of race, socioeconomic status, gender/sexuality. They often reinforce stereotypes and use images of violence and sexual exploitation to garner attention. Positive messages are vital, as high school students learn about the outside world largely from messaging external to the family. How students perceive their race, their identity and environment, whether in a positive or negative light, shapes how they view themselves. Students of color in Chicago need a broad range of positive role models, and can be transformed by, and transform their social networks by creating media that accurately portray themselves, their families and their schools. Once students learn to present themselves with confidence, and a commitment to academic and professional success, they can reverse the messaging that they receive through media.