Facilitating the Voices of Marginalized and Racialized Youth
This paper reports on a participatory action research project (Lee, 1999) called Malvern Youth Leadership Inclusion Facilitation Enabling (M.Y.L.I.F.E.). That project was undertaken to create space for and facilitate the authentic voices of marginalized youth living in an equally marginalized Toronto neighbourhood called Malvern. Marginalized and racialized youth are often identified as “high-risk youth”, a term that indicates exposure to harmful conditions, such as racialization, substandard housing, barriers to education and employment, violence in the home and community, to name a few (Toronto Police Service, 2004). Malvern youth are such high-risk youth; and, their marginalization became amplified when a spotlight of negative publicity focused on Malvern in response to incidents of street violence in their community. While many of the “risks” to Malvern and Malvern youth are systemic in nature, media and social service professionals often depicted the Malvern community as crime ridden, a risky place for other citizens, substantially disorganized, and apathetic. Malvern youth in particular were generally portrayed as angry and violent. This image of Malvern appropriated the voice of their community, and of their youth in particular, as it produced and reinforced feelings of failure and alienation existing among these youth. The objective of the M.Y.L.I.F.E. project was to enable and support substantial numbers of marginalized and racialized local youth in mounting their own project in researching and sharing their experiences, and presenting their own picture of their community. It was regarded as a way that they could take ownership of a community development agenda that would otherwise have been constructed for them and without them. It is envisioned that this paper will contribute to the Humanities’ analysis of “difference” according to age, race, class, and ethnicity, and the ways in which such public constructions of difference hinder the health of marginalized youth and communities.
Keywords: High-Risk Youth, Marginalized or Racialized Youth, Youth Voice and Empowerment, Marginalized Communities, Participatory Action Research
Dr. Bill Lee
Associate Professor, School of Social Work, McMaster University
Dr. Anthony Hutchinson
Executive Director, Brampton Neighbourhood Resource Centre