community psychology

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Introduction

With the goal of finding a local healthy arts and music community initiative, I went looking for local programs because there has been at least one in every city I have lived, and because I am personally more interested in and committed to music than most other cultural activities.  Unfortunately, I was not able to find an arts and music-centered community-based organization.  There are less than a handful of non-profits, like the Springer Arts House for drama and musical theatre as well as the River Arts Center for traveling musical acts.  There are commercial chain businesses that specialize in music instruction, whether they be audio production or music instruction, and there is a music program in every public school in the local city and county.  However, there are no community organizations focusing on alternative (read: non-mainstream) arts and music.  Such an initiative should focus on the community that is not served by the conventional.  It would serve political minorities and youth interested in artistic and musical self-expression that no outlet other than the above, outside of public schools, offers.  Unfortunately, even the public schools are focused on conventional musical expression.  That isn’t enough.

How would I create a healthy communities’ arts and music initiative?  It could not be a one-person effort.  It would require the efforts of a myriad of individuals, neighborhood groups, community groups, some local government participation and even some local businesses.  Accordingly, this paper will be organized into the following sections:   Determining health indicators, specific steps, people that should be involved, and what information will be needed prior to beginning such an initiative.  While there are exceptional community toolkits available, some that I will consult for supporting ideas, the bulk of this healthy community arts and music initiative will be supported by the real-world asset analysis of Kretzmann & McKnight (1993) to conduct an asset-based assessment, rather than a needs assessments.  Specifically, it is necessary to determine what is already available in the community, rather than operate from a disadvantaged viewpoint of what is needed and already lacking.

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Any initiative that actively engages adolescents to take control of their lives by illustrating how they can actively and positively participate in their social environment instead of being a victim of it, is powerful.  Wallerstein, Sanchez-Merki & Dow (2006) explore a program that utilized at its heart Freirian empowerment education methods and Ronald Rogers (1984 in Wallerstein, Sanchez-Merki & Dow, 2006) protection-motivation behavior change theory and applied it to a health education intervention program in New Mexico public schools, the Adolescent Social Action Program.  Unfortunately, due to funding issues, the program has since closed.  While this may be a simplistic rendering of the program, the adolescent participants in the program actively engaged one another, were taught how to apply critical thinking to their own lives and their actions and the actions of others.  Instead of letting life happen to them, they took an active role in their own lives and, through Rogers’ social change model, they began social and health projects for the schools and communities where they live.  Those projects included an exploration of social-legal policies, community resources, and prevention strategies for risky behaviors.

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While I am very enthusiastically in support of participatory action research as well as asset-based community development (ABCD) I am also in favor of combining methods to use, whatever is most effective.  In this case, neither of the above seemed to work for the Tenderloin Senior Outreach Project but a combination of methods utilizing adaptations of Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals and ABCD did accomplish the task.  Addressing a specific issue was not as effective as addressing the overall situation and engaging the community members in contributing solutions that included them in the process. Given what I have researched, it is infinitely more effective to engage the community (top and bottom) in a combined approach that brings about effective change.

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While this article was written in 2006, and Klitzman, et al (2006) discuss lead poisoning in the water system of New York City, I have to ask, why there is no initiative federally to eliminate the poisons in our water, when, albeit only limitedly, unfortunately, the 14th amendment was used to break down some Jim Crow laws based on the interstate commerce clause. And in 2016, there is still an ongoing problem in Flint, Michigan and several other cities that no agency seems to want to deal with or fix.  What then?  How do we fix this?  There are water filters that can and will work, and yet states and cities are not stepping forward to provide these solutions or any others.

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The title of Foshee’s (1998) article suggests preventative measures to minimize adolescent dating abuse. It is, but I will take issue with a few basic ideas and methods later. Towards that end, “Safe Dates,” a school- and community-based adolescent abuse prevention program was studied to determine if the intervention helped to alleviate intimate partner violence.  School activities included a dramatic play, a 10-session curriculum, and a poster contest.  The community program included service-provider training and special services.  While intimate partner violence is widespread, little research, according to Foshee, has been conducted among teens.  This study hoped to fill in that gap in the literature.

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Gutiérrez and Lewis (2006) discuss a topic close to my heart and one that will be an aspect of my participatory action research in the future, community organizing in communities of color, especially with women and girls of color since societally they are the most oppressed and taken for granted and forgotten by the larger society of the United States. What is key here is what I will be faced with when I begin my community psychology “to help others help themselves” that I have to confront myself with every day:  my level of involvement as a white appearing man in a community of people of color, especially women of color without interfering, stepping on, or silencing their voices while attempting to empower them collectively and individually.

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Hays, R. A. (2007). Community activists’ perceptions of citizenship roles in an urban community: A case study of attitudes that affect community engagement. Journal of Urban Affairs, 29(4), 401-424

 

Introduction

Allen Hays (Hays, 2007) looks at the connections and barriers between community activism (community-based organizations) and political participation in a small urban community to determine how they are viewed by participants. He is particularly interested in the contrast in opinions of those participants that view each other’s activities as separate.  There is no common ground or opportunity for either to join the other’s activism or political participation.  Hays employs a qualitative case study of community and political activists’ attitudes in a small urban community in northern Iowa.  The study is based on Robert Putnam’s theoretical model that suggests a strong connection between local civic and political engagement and Nina Eliasoph’s model that suggests there are barriers between local civic and political participation.  Hays (2007) tested these models through a series of in depth interviews with the above cross-section of a community’s population actively involved in civic and political activities.  He explores perceived boundaries between the two areas to better understand those boundaries might be overcome in similar cities.

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Rappaport (1998) reinforces a previous written critique I had in another course.  Researchers in community psychology as well as humanistic psychology are not there for themselves or to dictate a narrative, whether it is finding a means to evolve through a series of community problems or not.  Rappaport explains it as being, “useful to people who have limited access to resources” where researchers serve as amplifiers to those voices.  While I have thought about this at length, I hadn’t considered it as a subject of academic research.  I have considered it as something that is necessary to do within the context of research to help people help themselves and empower them as individuals and groups in their own communities.

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Introduction

I have lived in Georgia twice, once from 1994 in South Georgia in and around Savannah and again from 2010 to the present, in Atlanta, the capitol, and Columbus, a primarily industrial city of over 200,000 (United States Census Bureau, 2016). In that time, I have had an opportunity to contrast and compare the variety of communities and power structures. While Atlanta is metropolitan and Savannah is historical, Columbus primarily relies upon industry and a military base for employment.

While I have been here, I have observed that, while there are cultural institutions, a regional university, for example, it’s presence does not make Columbus a college town with the requisite cultural trappings. The university seems to serve industry, catering some programs to suit local industry, rather than the students’ career goals. Because I am extremely interested in musical cultures, or scenes as they are called, I queried a few people in Columbus and discovered that while there were music clubs and a record store or two at one time, those are no longer in existence.  But there is an underground music scene because there seems to be one in every city and town, and some have pooled their resources to open a new venue to support those local and regional bands who support the club with fans and patronage to keep the venue alive.  While there is some effort to transform the cultural scene in Columbus, the neighborhoods seem to be stuck in the past, though there are some distinct differences in Columbus from the neighborhoods in Atlanta as well as Savannah.

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Kretzmann and McKnight (1993) cover all aspects of community building from individuals to associations to local institutions and taking those assets and rebuilding and mobilizing.  I may have reiterated this before, but while this book is powerful, it is large and not portable and there are no printable forms.  Since its printing in 1993, it has not been revised and it has not been released in a portable, e-book format, which is necessary for communities to facilitate many ideas in this valuable resource.

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Kretzmann & McKnight (1993) have codified, more or less what I have done to research necessary information, be it looking for research materials for a report, digging up an obscure musical recording, and especially resources to help individuals with personal or health crises.  Here it is codified neatly into one compact place, this time with a logical procedure to connect with and to local groups and associations.

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Kretzmann & McKnight (1993) provide us with the equivalent of a bible, one to implement asset-based community (or capacity-focused) development from the ground up.  This isn’t about assessing needs, deficiencies, and problems, but discovering a community’s capacities and assets.  This is an important distinction because it takes the standard way of solving community problems with bureaucracy and a band-aid and puts that power into the hands of community to help themselves and utilize their already present resources.

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Understanding Health, Community, and Community Health

How health, community, and community health are examined, utilized, and defined depend upon the representatives of the community involved. All are key, all are vital, and all are based upon the perspective of key individuals and groups. A politician will obviously differ from a health care provider, a social service agency, and, most definitely, a recipient of various services. Whose perspective is most important? Ultimately, the recipient is paramount, but from a community perspective, every member of the community concerned with its successful and healthful evolution is a recipient of the community organism and must be considered for the community to thrive, grow, and continue to nurture its members, helping them to thrive.

My understanding of health, community, and of community health is complex and biased by what I have seen and what I have experienced in a variety of communities from birth throughout my life. Let’s be honest here. Objectivity is very difficult to achieve, and I didn’t become interested in humanistic psychology to be apathetically objective. I’m here because I want to help people thrive and evolve and to learn from them. Health, to me, is social, emotional, and physical. Health is well-being in a community that allows its members to thrive and contribute personally and socially after being provided rightfully necessary shelter, healthy food (with space to grow it), preventative medicine, and the ability to work. Community is all of that and allowing a space where people feel safe and accepted, safe enough to be themselves, valued enough in the community to suggest and contribute unique solutions to community challenges, no matter the youth or the age of the member. Community health is all of the above.

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I appreciate the idea that we are studying a practical, on-the-ground-activist-map and an academic and analytical one. The readings of Minkler’s (2006) case studies and Jackson & Volckens (1998) illustrate this very well.

While Jackson’s “reverberation theory of stress and racism” as it occurs in both the dominant political majority group and throughout the subgroup as their stress and “racism” is subjected to other less prevalent political minority groups. I question the idea of racism within the subclasses for the obvious reason that while a political majority has dominant control of society and its apparatuses, it is impossible for any subgroup to exhibit racism when they don’t have dominant control. That doesn’t stop the dominant group from defining these terms and claiming “reverse” racism that is evident in many online social network exchanges and news media reports.

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Opening up Pilisuk and Parks (1986), the first thought that came to mind is that laughter is the best medicine.  Given that healthy and supportive community is necessary for our physical and emotional health and well-being, this should be obvious to most.

Even though Pilisuk and Parks temper their remarks, cautioning us “not to generalize too much …, especially since they all deal with psychological consequences of insufficient support,” and stressors differ from person to person and from community to community they bring up some interesting ideas that support some of my personal observations.  While the Western medical professional has evolved since the days of suppressing folk and community medicine and are beginning to acknowledge these adjuncts, there is still much work to be done, as I see it, if all the sciences, clinical, medical (especially in the area of medical specialization that does not treat the whole patient as a person, rather than as an object to experiment on), folk, et al, are to work together to improve communities by considering the person as a whole as well as their personal support system, their place in the community as well as the social, emotional, and spiritual support system that the community provides to the individual.  What is particularly unfortunate but not surprising to me is the minimal support system and social networks of individuals suffering with major and not so major psychiatric illness as there are in my family, especially since Pilisuk and Parks indicate its normality for this population.  What is particularly intriguing is the size of one’s social network of friends and contacts in relation to mental health, but given the fractured state of societies and individuals; I don’t wonder that I want to start an intentional community with like-minded individuals to help and support each other in addition to growing our own food.  Honestly, I see a very vital, powerful, and evolutionary support system here at Saybrook that I have never seen in any other educational environment.

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I know there are” ideal” companies to work for, not because I have worked for them (because I haven’t), but because very few friends have mentioned their work environments and their ideal supervisors and because I have read about them occasionally in the news pages.  But now that I have read Hacker and Robert’s analysis of when great managers fail to become great leaders.  In point of fact, I have rarely encountered what I consider a great manager, and when I have, they moved on shortly thereafter or I did.  I suspect that most managers, and frankly most front line employees, according to Hacker and Roberts’ description, don’t receive proper mentoring or training to be managers or leaders.  On that level, this book is rather enlightening and if all companies don’t need to read and apply this, most do.

I have worked in several industries for several companies, and I have no interest in working for any more companies any more than I have to.  I am more interested in working for myself teaching and learning from others and helping them individually and in small groups find their life’s passion in their local environment.  Given that this is a corporate-slanted text, I am surprised and impressed to see a whole chapter devoted to creating a life of meaning.  This concept has puzzled my family since they felt I should be doing one thing from the beginning of my working life to the end of my working life and I did not because I did not and still do not feel that I fit a mold or stereotype that they forced themselves into.  Retirement is a social construct designed to give people a false impression that they cannot do what they love and do something instead that they are obligated to do for family, for society, for security until they are too tired to continue doing it. When did this happen? In the not to distant past, each of our ancestors, wherever they were, worked the land, worked with their hands, worked with their brains to offer local wisdom to heal.  In a manner of speaking, a career was something that you simply were, rather than something you did temporarily. I have no intention of retiring. I don’t know what that would look like, and it certainly would literally bore me to death.

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I see the potential for perpetual personal evolution and perhaps personal revolution within Diaz’s summary, “. . . a relational/empathy based concept of social justice provides us with an interpretation of social justice as the perpetual process of creating and recreating relationships of awareness, empathy, and empowerment.” I see this either as the direction that is needed by societies, current social evolution or I am projecting personal evolution and revolution that is occurring for me at the moment.  Nonetheless, for society to thrive and survive, perpetual social justice is vitally necessary.

In the discussion of procedural justice, Diaz asks a series of difficult but necessary questions to determine what is and what isn’t procedural and moral justice for the franchised and the disenfranchised. I was struck by the timeliness of such questions in relation to the inequality that surrounds me daily and by the recent US government greed, selfishness, and apathy without any desire for real justice over personal, self-inflicted revenge justice from so-called liberals and so-called conservatives.  I understand that the self is of highest importance in social interactions, and most individuals cannot see outside of themselves unless it is blatantly obvious and unless they can relate to the other.  I also believe that more relational justice needs to happen in order for the privileged to understand those that are not privileged on a more human level.  Perhaps privilege makes people apathetic or immune and perhaps relational justice and discussion will allow for better understanding on so many other levels. On a local level, I believe relational justice can be quite effective and possible if people remain open to others that are different and open to real personal justice rather than justice by the letter of the law.  But people must understand that suffering exists in everyone, that people must work together to achieve real evolutionary change in society.

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While much has been said and much has been written about scientific objectivity and, in the case of my experience in local television journalism, much has been said regarding journalistic objectivity, sometimes quite passionately to the detriment of the local issues being discussed.  Both have their place, but I have never really understood why there isn’t a middle ground to analyze the needs of objectivity in relation to the needs of the community and the activism necessary to improve the work of both.  The scientific objectivity is recent within the study of sociology, psychology, and the IndividualEvolution.org classes that I participate in on Saturday mornings.  The journalistic objectivity is not new but while I was immersed in it, I always saw the false integrity (even without my awareness of the propaganda) in claiming objectivity while accomplishing no community improvement.   This objectivity vs. productive involvement is something that has also interested the readings’ authors as well, and I am glad that it has because I have wondered if I had been the only who has been puzzled by this.

Freire takes on this dichotomy to analyze the oppressed vs. the oppressors.  Other than the unique situation of the oppressed and the dictatorship of 1960s Brazil and the unique ways that subversive music produced (In the case of music specifically, Gilberto, Jobim, and Os Mutantes, for example, were part of an underground movement protesting the dictatorship while seeming to follow the strict dictates of the regime.), I see little difference in the ways that the oppressed of the world are reacting and rebelling against their respective oppressors, even in the United States where the economy continues to create more poverty and more apathy in the economically oppressed and the rich, respectively.  However, in the case of the oppressors, there may have been an element of humanity present when Friere originally wrote.  I see few elements of humanity in any present day oppressors unless there is humanity in apathy.

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