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Jessica Haas, Timothy S. Hanna, Ph.D., Awa Jangha, Ph.D., Dayna Pizzigoni, Kari O’Grady, Ph.D., Jesse Fox, Ph.D., Kimberleigh Stickney

Tensions in Ferguson Symbolic of National Race Crisis

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Racial tensions between police forces and local communities have been spotlighted with increased attention and frequency in the past year. These incidents have demonstrated the need for racial reconciliation to restore unity within the affected communities and dignity to the African American peoples who have been the target of lethal discriminatory acts. These traumatic acts have generated a nationwide outcry about the racial disparities that continue to foster toxic environments for all. U.S. citizens are calling for an intentional, collaborative, and effective response to such incidents. One community in particular that has received national attention is Ferguson, Missouri. The purpose of this study is to better understand the lived experience of those who were involved in the racial tensions in Ferguson MO. An information-seeking trip was conducted (May 2015) to garner participant input on question development to ensure effective multicultural considerations in working with diverse populations (Denzin & Lincoln, 2011). We received input about concerns and potential questions from leaders of the following groups who participated in a bridge-building forum: protestors, police, pastors, politicians, and public sector business owners. Additionally, several educators and a media spokesperson were included in the information gathering process.

Working with Dr. Kari O’Grady and Dr. Jesse Fox through the Loyola Center for Trauma Studies and Resilience Leadership, a small student research team is traveling to Ferguson, MO. in order to collect data for The Ferguson Trust-Building Forum Participant Experience Study. We are scheduled to interview over 30 participants and continue confirming other interviews.

The research protocol examines the effectiveness of the forum as it relates to current research, looking specifically at the efficacy of relationship building, humanizing opposition, and participation in solution finding in reducing and repairing community trauma and race relations. The study investigates group alliance and self-identification as well as perceptions of other group identifiers and how to move beyond these identifications. Considering the potential for successes to be reproducible in other cities similarly affected by racial tension, community trauma, and non-peaceful protesting, researchers will be considering the impact of (a) participant’s narrative understanding, (b) individual, group, and community cosmology, and (c) the impact of hope on implementation outcomes. Furthermore, aspects of relevant religious/spiritual belief, leadership, and religious leadership will be evaluated as it relates to the efforts of the Trust-Building Forum outcomes.

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