“Dr. Brittany Lewis brings an approach to research that reflects the academic with the real world lived experience. This approach “engaged action research” is particularly effective with marginalized communities and youth that are often “researched” but not included as researchers and designers of their own solutions to their lived experiences. I have observed Dr. Brittany bring her passion, intellect and ability to empower people to use research and knowledge to impact policies that benefit their communities and quality of life. She was instrumental in bringing the Minnesota Trust Black Women & Girls Town Hall in partnership with the African American Policy Forum to Minnesota. This was a platform that challenged institutions to listen and change their practices in housing, mental health, criminal justice and education to bring positive impact on the lives of Black women and girls. Dr. Lewis is an effective and impactful researcher and activist. “
Dr. Brittany Lewis proves that one can be both a brilliant public intellectual and deeply grounded in community. She uses all that is available to her to ensure that Black Women’s rights to thrive is not simply a private matter but a public mandate. I feel better about the world knowing she is a fierce leader in it.
Hope Community Inc., Girls Empowerment Movement (GEMS) Youth Action Research Team led by Dr. Brittany Lewis aimed to empower young high school age Black girls through purposeful community action informed by research questions that are relevant to their daily lives. This year’s Youth Action Research Team chose to research the topic of colorism, because they argued that it was an understudied research area that has grave impacts on the health and well-being of Black women and girls creating negative experiences with long term impacts on self-identity. Their central research question asked: how does colorism, inside and outside the Black community, impact the health and well-being of Black women and girls? To examine this question, they created a survey to understand how early experiences with colorism shaped a person’s self-identity and relationships. The Youth Action Research Team presented their research findings at the MN Trust Black Women and Girl Town Hall event on Saturday, April 13, 2019 at the Walker Art Center.
The Youth Action Research Team revealed that most Black women and girls navigate negative experiences of colorism in their lives and define colorism as a practice based on skin complexion used within Black communities or behavior by white people that discriminates against dark-skinned Black people and tokenizes light-skinned Black people. The team was challenged by the wide spectrum of experiences with colorism that differed from their own. For instance, one youth researcher was surprised to learn that a family member of an interviewee used skin bleaching cream. Lastly, the team did not expect that people would interpret their experiences as positive or neutral even after sharing traumatizing stories. The team hopes that their research will create more awareness and motivate people, including parents and teachers, to challenge the language they use and hear that contributes to colorism. On June 12, 2019 Insight News published the Youth Action Research Team’s research findings in an article entitled “Girl researchers explore colorism.”
My aunt reaches under the cabinet for the third time this week and grabs the skin bleaching cream. As she applies it I wonder why she will go to the extent of putting toxic chemicals in her body, just to be lighter…just to fit into these beauty standards that were not meant for us. I try not to let it affect me, and my mom tells me I’m beautiful how I am. Yet I still find myself standing in front of the mirror asking myself, am I too dark? (16 Year Old Black Female)
There was this boy in my 11th grade class that I thought was the cutest. My friends would always try to persuade me to make my move. One day I built up the courage to go up to him and start a conversation. The conversation was going great, we were both flirting and laughing until he said “you are pretty for a dark skinned girl”. Was that meant to be a compliment? (16 Year Old Black Female)
Sometimes at a young age, I had to convince myself that I was not better than them. I had to convince myself that because I had ‘good hair’ and lighter skin, I was not better than girls with kinkier hair. When society grants you privileges and tells you that you are better than other black girls at a young age, what do you expect them to think? (39 Year Old Black Female)
Because of the texture of my hair, my peers automatically assumed i had to be mixed with something other than Black. I can’t even count the number of times that i’ve been asked “what are you mixed with?” or saying i have “white people” hair. It was like they were saying i didnt belong in the Black community because of my outside appearances. (Year Old Black Female)
The Hope Community Inc., Youth Action Research Team partnered with the MN Trust Black Women and Girls Town Hall Committee, which was established in 2018, after Dr. Brittany Lewis, The Women’s Foundation of Minnesota, the African American Leadership Forum, and Hope Community, Inc., partnered with the national African American Policy Forum (AAPF) to bring the Breaking the Silence Town Hall Series to Minneapolis and St. Paul. Held at the Walker Art Center on Saturday, April 13th this first of its kind congressional style event served over 200 community participants featuring four issue-focused panels that amplified the voices of Black women and girls in the areas of housing, education, criminal justice, and health and wellness for the purpose of highlighting policy solutions on behalf of Black women and girls.
- The Hope Community Inc., Youth Action Research Team led the social media and community education campaign for the Town Hall
- The Hope Community Inc., Youth Action Research Team presented their research findings on colorism at the town hall event.
- The Hope Community Inc., Youth Action Research teams findings were printed in the Insight News.