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Change Agent: Rabiatu Barrie

Stories | 11.12.19

Every week Assistant Professor Rabiatu Barrie, Ph.D., travels to Excel Academy of South Shore on Chicago’s South Side to meet with a small group of students for a program called Promoting Resilience and Identity Development through Empowerment (PRIDE). The school-based curriculum encourages African American boys 12 to 18 to think critically about themselves as emerging men. She brings them lunch and talks with them about their thoughts and experiences.

“We deconstruct the stereotypical role of Black men and talk about identity, gender identity and sexuality, conflict resolution, and engaging with systems and authority figures,” Barrie said. At the end of the program, the students pick a topic to debate to teach them how to think critically about these issues. They also write and present stories about their future selves.

Barrie initially developed the PRIDE curriculum in 2009 with colleagues as a graduate student at Loyola University Chicago. Later as a faculty member in the Child and Adolescent Psychology emphasis of the Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology (Psy.D.) program at Adler University, she revised it with the help of her students and research team. The curriculum includes restorative practices and conflict resolution as a means to promote healing. Since it was first developed, PRIDE has been implemented in schools throughout Chicago, serving more than 300 young men.

PRIDE has provided a positive experience for the students. “They really enjoy the curriculum,” Barrie said. “They don’t often get time and space to talk about those types of issues. We encourage them to think about things they never really thought about to see how those issues apply in their lives.”

It has also allowed Barrie to collect data on the experiences of young African American men to inform her research on how racism, trauma, and violence affect the development of Black masculinity. She approaches her research from a social justice and advocacy framework.

“The goal of my research is to explore positive identity models for the development of Black masculinity in African American boys,” said Barrie, who has more than 10 years of clinical experience providing individual therapy with urban youth, mostly African American boys, with complex trauma histories. “This includes ways to cope with racism, pathways for developing Black masculine identity, and empowerment for advocacy and civic engagement.”

In recognition of her work, Barrie was awarded the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Forward Promise Fellowship for Leaders award. The 18-month leadership-development learning experience brings together an intergenerational group of emerging and experienced leaders all working toward the healing of boys and young men of color and their communities.

“It has been really nice to work with such a great group of people, including like-minded scholars, educators, practitioners, and activists, working with communities across the nation,” Barrie said of the fellowship, which will conclude in March 2020. The group meets about every other month through virtual meetings and a few in-person retreats to share ideas, resources, and connections. “These people are now going to be in my networks for the rest of my career—a great support system that we get to keep.”

Barrie has several ongoing projects in addition to PRIDE, including a study that explores how African American fathers socialize their sons. She also established a private practice in 2018, specializing in pediatric psychological and cognitive assessment and individual therapy with African American boys and men.

Barrie said this work is important because African American boys and men “are in the margins of research and scholarly inquiry.” It is also meaningful to her especially because, she said, “I have a personal stake in the healing of Black boys. I am a Black woman with Black nephews, Black male friends, and Black male neighbors. Their well-being affects me as a member of their families and communities.”

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