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  1. 1. RunningHead:PHOTOVOICE:EMPOWERINGYOUTH IN BOYLE HEIGHTS PHOTOVOICE ADDRESSING GENTRIFICATION IN BOYLE HEIGHTS BY EMPOWERING YOUTH ___________________________________ A Capstone Project Presented to the Faculty of California State University Dominguez Hills _____________________________________ In Partial Fulfillment Of the Requirements for the Degree Master of Social Work ___________________________________ by Felipe Ocampo, Jr. Spring 2015
  2. 2. PHOTOVOICE: EMPOWERING YOUTH IN BOYLE HEIGHTS i
  3. 3. PHOTOVOICE: EMPOWERING YOUTH IN BOYLE HEIGHTS i Abstract: This study engaged six youth as co-researchers to explore their perspectives about gentrification and displacement in their Boyle Heights’ community. The issue of gentrification in Boyle Heights is explored as a concern to social advocates and leaders as they recognize their role in responding to the displacement of low-income families and the social injustices. An analysis of upcoming transit-oriented development is presented in relation to upcoming development projects in Boyle Heights. The methodology used in the study was a participatory research approach known as photovoice, which is used in research as an effective technique in addressing social disparity issues by empowering community members to become advocates. The study provided youth an opportunity to voice their perspectives through the use of photography, digital story-telling and semi-structured focus group discussions. The youth identified six themes including undesired change, lost opportunities and friendships, social ties and social support, unaddressed needs, fear, and resistance during a series of focus group discussions that took place during the study. Additionally, the research addresses the shortcomings of utilizing a participatory research method with a sample size of youth, a proposal to recruit a representative sample is made. This research assisted in the recognition of the youth’s experience in Boyle Heights during a period when gentrifying factors are influencing changes in their community. Although there is certainly value in the traditional quantitative methods used in research, the photovoice method for this study offered a new perspective on the issue of gentrification through a new youthful audience. The themes that emerged tell a clear story about how the youth have a genuine and vested interest in the development of their surroundings.
  4. 4. PHOTOVOICE: EMPOWERING YOUTH IN BOYLE HEIGHTS iii Acknowledgements: I will be forever grateful to the various individuals in my life that have provided me strength, encouragement and support throughout this journey. This capstone project would not have been completed without the participation and enthusiasm of the six youth that participated in this study. I wish to thank my community organization partners East Los Angeles Community Corporation, Las Fotos Project and LURN Network for their contributions and their collaborations on the various stages of this capstone project. I am thankful for their passion and commitment to this study and to the issue of gentrification in Boyle Heights. Many thanks to Dr. Elizabeth Barnett for sharing her wisdom and expertise with me and believed in my ability to implement this study and carry out this feat. Her support during our meetings always left me feeling empowered and thinking about the possibilities. In addition, I want to thank the Dominguez Hills Social Work faculty for their warmth, wisdom and encouragement during this journey. Throughout this study, I had constant support of my family, friends, and fellow colleagues. They were all instrumental to my well being and were always willing to discuss my research, the process, and the experiences from the process. I could not have done this without their love and laughter, and for always believing I would succeed in completing this capstone project.
  5. 5. PHOTOVOICE: EMPOWERING YOUTH IN BOYLE HEIGHTS iiii TABLE OF CONTENTS CONTENTS PAGE SIGNATURE PAGE ........................................................................................................................i ABSTRACT.....................................................................................................................................ii ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS............................................................................................................ iii CHAPTER I: INTRODUCTION.....................................................................................................1 Need for the Study ...............................................................................................................1 Terminology.........................................................................................................................2 Theoretical Framework........................................................................................................2 CHAPTER II: REVIEW OF LITERATURE ..................................................................................4 History of Gentrification......................................................................................................4 Transit-Oriented Development ............................................................................................8 Participatory Research Approach.........................................................................................9 Photovoice..........................................................................................................................10 Engaging and Organizing Youth in Research....................................................................12 Boyle Heights Community ................................................................................................13 CHAPTER III: METHODOLOGY ...............................................................................................15 Qualitative Study Design ...................................................................................................16 Photovoice Method ............................................................................................................16 Site Selection and Participant Recruitment........................................................................16 Data Collection ..................................................................................................................17 Focus Groups .....................................................................................................................18 Photovoice Project Timeline..............................................................................................18 Photovoice Discussion Questions ......................................................................................18 Photographs........................................................................................................................19 Data Analysis .....................................................................................................................19 Selection of Photographs for Las Fotos Project Art Exhibit..............................................20 Role of the Researcher .......................................................................................................21 CHAPTER IV: RESEARCH RESULTS .......................................................................................23 Implementing the Study.....................................................................................................23 Recruitment Process...........................................................................................................24 Focus Group Meetings.......................................................................................................25 Participant Demographics..................................................................................................27 Youth Participants..............................................................................................................27 Participatory Analysis........................................................................................................28 Selecting Photographs........................................................................................................28 Contextualizing ..................................................................................................................29
  6. 6. PHOTOVOICE: EMPOWERING YOUTH IN BOYLE HEIGHTS iiiii Coding................................................................................................................................29 Thematic Analysis..............................................................................................................30 Findings..............................................................................................................................30 Discussion of Themes ........................................................................................................30 Theme 1: Undesired Change..............................................................................................30 Theme 2: Lost Opportunities and Friendships ...................................................................33 Theme 3: Social Ties and Support .....................................................................................34 Theme 4: Unaddressed Community Needs, Our Needs ....................................................37 Theme 5: Fear ....................................................................................................................39 Theme 6: Our Barrios, Our Terms.....................................................................................41 Las Fotos Project Art Exhibit ............................................................................................43 CHAPTER V: DISCUSSION........................................................................................................45 Significance of the Findings ..............................................................................................45 Limitations .........................................................................................................................47 Recommendations for Future Research .............................................................................48 Concluding Remarks..........................................................................................................48 REFERENCES ..............................................................................................................................50 APPENDICES ...............................................................................................................................55 Appendix A: SHOWeD Form............................................................................................55 Appendix B: Informed Consent (English) .........................................................................56 Appendix C: Informed Consent (Spanish).........................................................................58 Appendix D: Assent Form .................................................................................................60 Appendix E: Concept Proposal..........................................................................................62 Appendix F: Photovoice Orientation Presentation ............................................................64 Appendix G: Photo Ethics .................................................................................................65 Appendix H: Recruitment Flyer.........................................................................................66 Appendix I: Photovoice Agenda Week 1...........................................................................67 Appendix J: Las Fotos Project Letter.................................................................................68
  7. 7. PHOTOVOICE: EMPOWERING YOUTH IN BOYLE HEIGHTS ivii LIST OF FIGURES Figure 1. Demographics Table ......................................................................................................27 Figure 2. Youth Participant 5 photograph: Metro ........................................................................31 Figure 3. Youth Participant 1 photograph: Empty Lot..................................................................32 Figure 4. Youth Participant 6 photograph: Oscar De La Hoya Animo Charter School ................33 Figure 5. Youth Participant 3 photograph: Liquor Store...............................................................35 Figure 6. Youth Participant 2 photograph: La Curandera .............................................................36 Figure 7. Youth Participant 4 photograph: Trash..........................................................................38 Figure 8. Youth Participant 2 photograph: Linda Vista Community Hospital..............................39 Figure 9. Youth Participant 3 photograph: Starbucks, Olympic & Soto .......................................40 Figure 10. Youth Participant 4 photograph: Stop Gentrification ..................................................42 Figure 11. Las Fotos Art Exhibit...................................................................................................44
  8. 8. PHOTOVOICE: EMPOWERING YOUTH IN BOYLE HEIGHTS 1 CHAPTER I: INTRODUCTION The purpose of this study is to understand the effects of gentrification in Boyle Heights by cataloging the lived experience of youth through the methodology of photovoice. This chapter begins by justifying the need for this study and provides operational definitions for words that frequent the study and require explanations. In the latter section of this chapter, the theoretical parameters for the study are presented. In Chapter Two, the literature review begins by assessing the historical context of gentrification in the United States, identifying the costs of gentrification, and introducing transit- oriented development. Next, the participatory research approach known as photovoice is explained and justified as methodology in social work research that empowers participants to advocate for change. The chapter concludes with the history of displacement and revitalization efforts in Boyle Heights and the proposed transit-oriented development plans by Los Angeles Metro. Need for the Study The need to address the current wave of gentrification within Boyle Heights is becoming urgent. The consequences of gentrifying a neighborhood by developing housing that price out current residents are detrimental to the wellbeing of the Boyle Heights community, its youth, and the local businesses. This issue is of concern to social workers as they recognize their role in responding to the displacement of low-income families and the resulting social injustices. By applying a community capacity building framework, this study posits the need to build capacity among the youth and community members of Boyle Heights in order to address current gentrification and redevelopment concerns.
  9. 9. PHOTOVOICE: EMPOWERING YOUTH IN BOYLE HEIGHTS 2 Terminology It is imperative to note the definition of gentrification that I will be employing was coined in Ruth Glass’ 1964 book London, Aspects of Change. In her book, gentrification materializes from the British term, “gentry,” meaning the upper class (1964, Page 22). Glass also discusses the working-class houses from London that were sub-divided and upgraded once their leases expired. These “upgrades” caused the social status of the neighborhood to increase along with the rents. Consequently, the working-class community was displaced. Glass noticed this phenomena occurring in an ample number of London neighborhoods and her analysis became the common method of looking at gentrification once it started occurring throughout the United States. Transit-oriented development (TOD) is an additional term that requires explanation. There are many iterations of TOD in literature such as transit villages, transit-supported development, and transit-friendly design but transit-oriented development remains the most widely-used form (Cervero, 2004). As Cervero (2004) points in Chisholm's' Transit Cooperative Research Program, the term has been known as the practice of developing or intensifying land use near railroads or a mixed-use community that encourages people to live near transit services. However, for the purposes of my research study, transit-oriented development (TOD) is a mixed- use residential or commercial area that is intended to maximize access to public transportation. Theoretical Framework Community work is a practice that is meant to help people create unity and dialogue amongst themselves to identify issues of concern and take action to resolve them (Modern Social Work Theory, Pg 208, 2005). According to Payne (2005), community development can be utilized to help groups come together and participate in gaining skills and confidence. Through
  10. 10. PHOTOVOICE: EMPOWERING YOUTH IN BOYLE HEIGHTS 3 development efforts, groups of people can promote political action for services and facilities in their neighborhood. Thus, community development work is a distinctive form of practice that calls upon both theory and knowledge (Payne, Pg 50, 2005). Through an assets and social development lens, Shanks and Robinson (2013) elucidate the relationship between a person’s health and where they live. There is a large body of evidence that strongly associates health outcomes of individuals and their family assets. The evidence supports that greater wealth, higher income, higher education, and residing in localities full of services and linkages aid in developing healthy families. In particular, the immediate environment plays a key role in shaping the health and educational outcomes of children and families. The economic resources a community offers will provide permanence and reduce the risk factors that exist in the immediate environment (Shanks and Robinson, 2013). An environmental element that cannot be ignored is the built environment. Bullard, Johnson, and Torres (2011) point out the interrelatedness of the built environment such as green access, industrial facilities, and air quality and it impacts low-income communities like Boyle Heights. Overall, it is argued that assets in a community are social determinants that will impact the outcomes of the community members and affect their life trajectory some shape or form. Using participatory research method such as photovoice with the Boyle Heights community will create opportunities to develop social capital, building capacity and address social exclusion. Social capital is created through the interaction of the participants and their community and one of the topics discussed would be social exclusion (Payne, 2005). Creating social capital increases community and social infrastructure which becomes an important resource. Capacity-building helps build understanding and enhances skills in order to enable community members to participate more effectively in their community. The social inclusion of
  11. 11. PHOTOVOICE: EMPOWERING YOUTH IN BOYLE HEIGHTS 4 disadvantaged individuals and communities helps them have a stronger presence by being provided opportunities and resources for participation. Many issues of social development concern poverty, gender, ethnicity and its consequence for the identity of the individual. Therefore, social development connects with ideas from Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality. Research and interaction with communities of color necessitate culturally competent practices. Using a critical race theoretical approach, the relationship among race, racism and power is evaluated in order to understand social situations and how to change them (Delgado, 2000). Gentrification, through a critical race lens, would necessitate a review of the racial implications of public policy that furthers the agenda of development projects that displace people of color. As critical race theorist Delgado (2000) posits, racism is ordinary and difficult to address in its form of color-blind policies. Unless efforts by community members and agencies work to disrupt the displacement of people of color things will remain unchanged. Then, it is vital that voices-of-color be used to give power of speech to the oppressed so that their testimony and experiences with oppression are heard. In essence, photovoice is a method to that allows for voices-of-color to be heard. CHAPTER II: REVIEW OF LITERATURE History of Gentrification Gentrification, in the United States, began as an isolated process in a few American neighborhoods and later became common in small non-global cities. The Brookings Institute defines gentrification as, “the process by which higher income residents displace lower income residents of a neighborhood, changing the essential character and flavor of that neighborhood” (Kennedy and Leonard, 2001). The first documented wave of gentrification occurred when local city government and national US government sought to counter the private-market economic
  12. 12. PHOTOVOICE: EMPOWERING YOUTH IN BOYLE HEIGHTS 5 drop of central city neighborhoods during the 1970’s (Hackworth and Smith, 2001). As a consequence of the gentrification intervention to address the decline of private-market housing, Hackworth and Smith (2000) found that conditions deteriorated for the working class. The second wave of gentrification took place in the 1980’s and involved cities near New York. In this period, deep political tension revolved around the displacement of the poorest residents. In New York City small neighborhoods like SoHo, Tribeca, and the Lower East Side experienced residential gentrification through the flow of capital in the arts (Hackworth and Smith, 2001). During the mid to late 1990’s, the third wave of gentrification involved ease of access for corporate developers to gentrify cities and neighborhoods without much community resistance. The ease of access is described by Hackworth and Smith (2000) as an active pursuit of state governments to create tax revenues by allowing practices of displacement to occur. Gentrification displaces many public housing recipients into similar communities where their previous experiences are repeated. According to Formoso, Weber, and Atkins (2010), gentrification changes the environment in which children and families socialize, for better or for worse. Academics and policymakers argue that concentrated poverty can be eased and risk factors reduced by mixing households with different earnings (Formoso, Weber, and Atkins 2010). However, as working-class and ethnic-minority residents are gradually priced out of areas, evidence that gentrification leads to social polarization and displacement continues to escalate (Lees, 2008). Formoso, Weber, and Atkins (2010) posit three ways that the de- concentration of poverty can occur: 1) poor families become less poor through improved income and living standards that are influenced through mixed income development, 2) improved financial standing will allow families to relocate to wealthier areas, and 3) wealthier families can relocate to low-income neighborhoods and gentrify the area. In order to understand the three
  13. 13. PHOTOVOICE: EMPOWERING YOUTH IN BOYLE HEIGHTS 6 ways the de-concentration of poverty can occur, the researchers focused on two indicators of gentrification, the influx of affluent residents and the displacement of low-income residents. Formoso, Weber, and Atkins (2010) counsel policymakers for the need to address gentrification by retaining low-income families and funneling tax revenues created by the process back to the community. In contrast, Walks and Maaranen (2008) studied the relationship between three elements of gentrification the time span of gentrification, changes in income, and shifts in ethnic diversity. Their research indicated that gentrified areas experienced a drop in the ethnic makeup of the communities and a drop in the numbers of immigrant populations (Lees, 2008). During the gentrification process, displacement begins to occur in communities as homeowners evict tenants to sell homes. This is a fairly common sequence, as Smith and LeFaivre (1984) note, which involves families being displaced once or twice within the same neighborhood. Still, the process continues as families are displaced until they reach a stage where moving to the suburbs is the only option (Smith and LeFaivre, 1984). It is Smith and LeFaivre’s assertion that the continuous displacement of people is caused by the high number of redevelopment projects concentrated in the area. More recently, Newman and Wyly (2006) review the effects of displacement over a span of ten years. Using a quantitative evaluation of displacement in New York City they identify the effects in communities such as increased housing costs and landlord harassment and evictions. Their research highlights the vital role community organizations play in ensuring the availability of affordable housing through their organizing and housing efforts (Newman &Wyly, 2006). By ensuring housing, they note that displacement efforts are reduced and the impact to the community is minimal. Through their research, Newman and Wyly (2006) revealed that policymakers planned to create homeownership and revitalize neighborhoods through mixed income and mixed race approach.
  14. 14. PHOTOVOICE: EMPOWERING YOUTH IN BOYLE HEIGHTS 7 However, their actions did not yield results due to the lack of consideration for protecting and retaining low-income residents in their mixed model approach. As a result of gentrification, communities organize development projects, such as the Pilsen Alliance, a group of community activists united to counter displacement efforts that are caused by urban preservation. Urban preservation is a strategy that questions what needs to be preserved and how it should be preserved during development. Zhang (2011) examined two Chicago neighborhoods that underwent urban preservation and analyzed how political fragmentation impacted the two localities (Zhang, 2011). According to Parillo (2008), political fragmentation is the existence of multiple units of government in urban and suburban areas, including special purpose governmental units like transportation authorities. Urban preservation came into existence as a reaction to industrialization in order to protect public infrastructure (e.g. roads and rail) and land use; its meaning has since evolved to signify a strategy of fiscal development and community revitalization (Zhang, 2011). The implications of urban preservation, according to Zhang, include concerns with policy, the allocation of resources, and the income of residents. Other aspects that affected urban preservation efforts include differences in community demographics, internal power struggles, and outside government forces (Zhang, 2011). As urban preservation continues to be adopted by resource-poor communities as a strategy against gentrification, political division and structure of local politics must be kept in mind. Their role in public policy is vital in their quest to balance affordable housing and the need to diversify the city into economically integrated communities. Social mixing is a strategy that is promoted as a solution to alleviate the ills of gentrification, but instead has been found to have detrimental effects on communities (Lees, 2008). Lees questions the extent to which social mixing, the act of moving middle-income
  15. 15. PHOTOVOICE: EMPOWERING YOUTH IN BOYLE HEIGHTS 8 people into low-income urban neighborhoods, provides a positive impact in communities. The assumption for those in favor of social mixing policies is that communities will be less segregated and more sustainable. In terms of policy, three rationales are provided from those in favor of social mixing. An argument is made that mixed neighborhoods will have stronger advocates for social change from the middle-class members, are able to support a stronger local economy, and that the social bonds created from social mixing will lead to economic opportunities (Lees, 2008). Scholars, however, contend that social mixing is merely a strategy for deflecting the criticism that would be received by using gentrification terminology. Academics caution that more research must be conducted on social mixing before it proceeds to be implemented into policy; they warn that social mixing may create cultural and social class tensions that will lead to withdrawal rather than mixing and that even with the middle-class’ longing for social integration, each party tends to self-segregate (Lees, 2008) It is Lees’ contention that social mixing policies are cosmetic rather than holistic policies. As Cheshire (2006) states, forcing neighborhoods to mix is a solution that treats the symptoms of inequality and not the cause. Families that stay in gentrifying neighborhoods are likely to incur heavier burdens such as cutbacks in household expenditures in order to address the rising rent costs or relocating to a smaller household (Newman & Wyly, 2006). Transit-Oriented Development Transit-oriented development generally refers to walkable, compact and mixed use development neighboring a transit zone (Duncan, 2004). According to Holmes and Van Helmer (2008), city planners identified three essential zoning strategies for successful transit-oriented development; strategies include “active pedestrian friendly streets, building intensity and scale, and careful transit integration.” An environment that welcomes pedestrians will provide ample
  16. 16. PHOTOVOICE: EMPOWERING YOUTH IN BOYLE HEIGHTS 9 sidewalk space while building intensity is regulated at the city level and transit integration is accomplished by ensuring safety to the community (Holmes and Van Hemer, 2008). Early literature emphasized the benefits of TOD heavily without giving much thought to the consequences. Cervero (2004) produced multiple benefits that transit-oriented development brings to communities and local governments including as neighborhood revitalization, improved transportation conditions, and enhancement of built and natural environments. In order to address the demand for denser communities with increased access to public transit, cities are utilizing or planning to utilize transit-oriented development. However, the demand for transit areas creates increasingly expensive housing, which in turn displaces low- income individuals and families. Holmes and Van Hemer (2008) purport that varied housing options such as single family homes, townhouses, and a sufficient amount of affordable rental units are essential for transit-oriented development. Flint (2005) found that high-density developments that were a result of TOD tend to entice certain demographic segments that can afford to pay premium prices. However, there are successful examples of transit-oriented development, such as the Fruitvale station in Oakland, where grassroots community participation led to revitalization without abrupt gentrification and displacement of residents (Flint, 2005). Participatory Research Approach Participatory methodologies are based on the premise that research cannot be accomplished neutrally. By recognizing subjectivity and allowing for the insertion of participants in the research process, participatory research is capable of focusing on the experiences of individuals and communities with the intention of comprehending and ameliorating their social conditions (Minkler & Wallerstein 2003). Participatory research is a method that presents opportunities for participants to feel empowered through their contributions in the process. A
  17. 17. PHOTOVOICE: EMPOWERING YOUTH IN BOYLE HEIGHTS 10 primary goal of a participatory approach is to gain a greater understanding of the challenges experienced by people or communities through their inclusion in the research process (Minkler & Wallerstein 2003). Participatory research seeks to include participants in the research process as co-researchers that contribute to the direction that the research takes. Additionally, participatory approaches challenge the possibility of the objective and unbiased researcher (Castleden & Garvin, 2008). The specific participatory approach that is drawn upon in this thesis is a visual methodology called photovoice. Photovoice Photovoice is a community-based participatory approach that was developed by Wang and Burris (2004), of the University of Michigan, based on an understanding that people are experts of their own lives. The technique empowers community participants to collect data by documenting their observations through photographs (Powers & Freedman, 2012). By using photovoice, Powers and Freeman (2012) note that community members are capacitated to become authorities of their own lives and experiences instead of being subjects of a research study. The photovoice methodology is constructed on the concept that images can teach, pictures can influence policy, and that communities, through participation, can shape public policy (Wang, 1999) Before utilizing the photovoice technique, it is essential that a safe space and location to host meetings is ascertained. According to Wang and Burris (1997), photovoice has three primary goals: “to enable people to (1) record and represent their everyday realities; (2) promote critical dialogue and knowledge about personal and community strengths and concerns; and (3) reach policymakers.” In essence, the intended outcomes of using photovoice successfully are empowering participants, assessing community needs and assets, and community action by the participants.
  18. 18. PHOTOVOICE: EMPOWERING YOUTH IN BOYLE HEIGHTS 11 The benefits of photovoice as a community-based participatory approach stem from its ability to empower communities. In a Flint Photovoice Project held in Flint, Michigan spearheaded by Caroline Wang, youth were empowered to express concerns around violence to key political figures (Wang, et. al., 2004). As a result of this project, funding was acquired to create violence prevention programs to address the concerns of the youth. An additional benefit from the Flint Photovoice project was community building through the involvement by residents that differed in age, income, sex, and social power (Wang, et. al., 2004). Photovoice can also benefit youth development by harnessing the desire of young people to express their creativity. Wang (2006) notes that youth are a group that is often underrepresented and stigmatized, but through photovoice, they have an opportunity to advocate for their concerns using their expertise. An additional benefit of youth involvement is the opportunity for intergenerational partnerships, which is often rare in communities (Wang, 2006). Though still limited, photovoice is increasingly being used in research but not without obstacles. In the Baltimore Photovoice project, site selection for housing such a project presented the researchers difficulties (Strack, Macgill and McDonaugh, 2004). A stable site location is recommended as it helps prevent attrition and the acceleration of the project that could hinder its quality. Strack, Macgill and McDonaugh (2004) note that planning with a flexible timeline will provide participants options and allow them to take ownership of the project. Additionally, the researchers strongly suggested that the duration of the project be lengthened to maximize the level of empowerment for photovoice participants. Strack, Macgill and McDonaugh (2004) advise that sufficient time be allotted for participants to grasp the basics of photography in order to ensure quality photographs.
  19. 19. PHOTOVOICE: EMPOWERING YOUTH IN BOYLE HEIGHTS 12 One crucial recommendation for photovoice researchers is the identification and assessment of the participant’s abilities. For Strack, Macgill and McDonough (2004), it was vital that they assess their youth participants accurately, in order to build on their competencies. More importantly, although photovoice enhances empowerment and informs policymakers, the researchers caution that this intervention does not completely resolve community issues. A photovoice program may not lead to a comprehensive state of empowerment, and instead, may produce a negative effect by failing to inform policy or rally public concern. Another aspect that may falter in a photovoice project is the willingness by participants to identify community deficits. Strack, Macgill and McDonough (2004) contend that participants may fail to recognize the significance of their everyday reality or fear exposing devastating aspects of their community. Photovoice is not without its limitations but it has great appeal as a method that engages community members and empowers them to become vocal participants of their community. Engaging and Organizing Youth in Research Involvement by youth in participatory research empowers youth to take action and consider their place within their community (Wang, 1997). The stories that are elicited through the photographs carry power and demonstrate the potential to evoke change through the use of the photovoice method with youth. Youth that take part in participatory research approaches are able to take action to solve neighborhood problems, which research shows develops hope, optimism and builds a sense of self-efficacy among them (Ginwright, 2010). Strack, Magill, and McDonaugh (2004) deemed photovoice to be an effective program for youth, only if, practitioners are mindful of photography skills of the youth, their roles as researchers and in society, and sensitivity to community deficits that exist in the youth's environment. Overall,
  20. 20. PHOTOVOICE: EMPOWERING YOUTH IN BOYLE HEIGHTS 13 Strack et al. (2004) supports the photovoice method for youth as a means for enhancing their capacity and ability to inform policymakers. Organizing youth to participate in participatory research is an effective entry point for leadership development within the context of a social justice issue. Youth organized in groups aim to teach important leadership skills that are necessary to confront issues that matter most to young people of color (Ginwright, 2010). Few opportunities exist for youth of color to build leadership skills and cultivate a critical perspective about how to bring change in their environment. Ginwright (2010) stresses the need for investment in efforts toward leadership opportunities for youth of color. The researcher insists that providing such efforts at the high school level provides a fruitful opportunity to build the capacity of the youth and further develop leaders. In addition, youth of color from the communities are best suited to confront the social issues that exist in their community, as they are the most affected group. Most importantly, Ginwright (2010) emphasizes that organizing youth of color together helps build a sense of control, agency, and optimism among them, consequently reducing barriers to their advocacy efforts in public policy. Boyle Heights Community Although not extensive, there is literature on the pressures of gentrification and the need for community action in Boyle Heights. Avila-Hernandez (2005) examined revitalization efforts in Boyle Heights through a personal narrative approach by reviewing historical displacement in Los Angeles and redevelopment efforts in Boyle Heights. Avila-Hernandez (2005) notes that displacement occurred as early as the 1920's in Boyle Heights, primarily for the construction of Chavez Ravine and the East L.A. freeway interchange. Avila-Hernandez adds that there is a connection between policy efforts by elected officials and corporate interests. She asserts that
  21. 21. PHOTOVOICE: EMPOWERING YOUTH IN BOYLE HEIGHTS 14 local city politicians and private developers are the major beneficiaries from revitalization projects in Boyle Heights. To conclude her research, Avila-Hernandez (2005) offers a strategic plan for community driven, accountable development in Boyle Heights. Part of the strategy offered by the author is a call to action that emphasizes the use of grassroots organizing for long-term social change. She proposes that, with a more effective and long-term strategy, Boyle Heights can become a mixed- income community with equal opportunity for all of the residents (Avila-Hernandez, 2005). The primary long-term goal that stressed by Avila-Hernandez (2005) is the implementation of revitalization guidelines that address the needs of low-income renters. Although Avila- Hernandez offers numerous action-step suggestions for combating gentrification, none really seek to empower and build community capacity by using existing community assets. More recently, Dow (2014) touches on the implications of a proposed redevelopment project for the Wyvernwood Garden Apartments that would involve 1,187 rent controlled units. The Wyvernwood apartment complex is one of the few affordable housing options for the working-class of Boyle Heights. In 2008, similar to the anticipated Sears Tower redevelopment project, new ownership proposed a plan to revitalize the space with high-rise apartment buildings, retail goods, and a workplace (Dow, 2014). Dow outlined the probable negative and positive gentrifying effects that would result from the proposed renovations. According to Dow, a prognosticated consequence from redeveloping the Wyvernwood apartment complex would be the creation of new jobs and encouraged commercial growth. However, redevelopment efforts would augment rent prices and lead to the displacement of those that are unable to afford the new apartments (Dow, 2014). Dow stresses the historic and cultural significance of Wyvernwood and how its cultural value would be diminished if redevelopment were to take place. Additionally, by
  22. 22. PHOTOVOICE: EMPOWERING YOUTH IN BOYLE HEIGHTS 15 asking where displaced residents would relocate, Dow brings up the shrinking supply of low-cost housing in Los Angeles County. Dow offers suggestions for the community of Boyle Heights to unify as a coalition and oppose redevelopment in order to promote the preservation of a cultural community asset. However, the authors’ suggestions fall short and place the burden solely on non-profit organizations. Instead, the recommendation to organize the community would be best served if it included a method of capacity building for a more long-term sustainable approach. During the November 5, 2014 meeting of Metro’s Planning and Programming Committee, an announcement was made for plans to craft new mixed-use developments. After an eleventh month process, Metro is planning new transit-oriented developments that are mixed- used for five site locations in Boyle Heights. According to Metro, the transit-oriented developments would feature an assortment of affordable housing, retail and office space. All five locations (Mariachi Plaza joint development, Santa Cecilia Apartments, 1st Street and Soto joint development, Chavez/Soto joint development) are located within walking distance of Metro's bus and rail services. The proposed Mariachi Plaza development would be an entirely commercial development that would include a medical office, a retail store, a six-level garage and space for food and beverages. The Santa Cecilia Apartments will be comprised of 79 affordable housing units, 1st Street and Soto would contain 49 units, and the Chavez/Soto joint development would contain 39 units. Pricing for all of the units is still unclear and Los Angeles County Metro has yet to disclose how it will mitigate the impact these projects will have on the community members of Boyle Heights. CHAPTER III: METHODOLOGY This chapter describes the design and methodology that is employed to complete this research study. Every research project follows a specific design and methodology to gather data
  23. 23. PHOTOVOICE: EMPOWERING YOUTH IN BOYLE HEIGHTS 16 and its analysis. The primary aim of this study is to engage a youthful audience in a conversation regarding gentrification in Boyle Heights, thus a qualitative study design is used with a phenomenological approach. Qualitative Study Design The nature of the research problem in this study is rooted in the complex topic of gentrification. The qualitative paradigm is suitable for complex topics like gentrification, which quantitative approaches would oversimplify (Lancy, 2001). I selected the qualitative research paradigm as a way to explore the unique perspective of youth with such a complex topic. Photovoice Method I developed a qualitative research design by adapting an existing participatory visual research method, photovoice, developed by Caroline Wang and Mary Ann Burris (1997). Photovoice differs from other forms of research in that the ultimate goal is to promote grassroots expertise and action through the results. Wang and Burris (1997) describe photovoice with the all-encompassing idea that what people at the grassroots level think is important doesn’t match what policy makers think is important. Photovoice is based on the principles that images can teach, pictures can influence policy, and community members should participate in crafting public policy. Site Selection and Participant Recruitment In order to gain access to a site and to recruit participants, I first applied for approval from the California State University of Dominguez Hills Institutional Review Board and to the partnering non-profit organizations Las Fotos Project and LURN Network. I selected Las Fotos Project and LURN Network because of their commitment to the Boyle Heights community and to the use of arts in community development. Las Fotos Project is an organization that is
  24. 24. PHOTOVOICE: EMPOWERING YOUTH IN BOYLE HEIGHTS 17 committed to teaching students methods for bringing about positive change through artistic methods. The LURN Network is an agency that is collaborating with local Boyle Heights artist’s trough an initiative called RAICES; together they combat gentrification and displacement through grassroots efforts. Their commitment aligns with the objectives and methodology of the study which incorporates the assimilation of art and community capacity building, making Las Fotos Project and LURN Network conducive to the study. Because of their physical capacity and safe space, all sessions were hosted at the LURN Network headquarters, located on 2002 E. 1st Street, Los Angeles, CA 90033 well within Boyle Heights. The participant recruitment process began with a brainstorming meeting between the Executive Director at Las Fotos Project and the Executive Director at LURN Network and myself. Outreach efforts were primarily through in-person presentations at various non-profit meetings in Boyle Heights and e-mails with a photovoice flyer. The recruitment flyer contained the purpose of the study and those involved in the study. I attended various Boyle Heights meetings, hosted by RAICES that included organizational leaders from Boyle Heights. In addition, I contacted the Project Manager from Building Healthy Communities in Boyle Heights and he assisted by sharing this opportunity through his network of contacts. Each outreach effort required the youth to sign up through a Google form. The recruitment process was projected to take place over two weeks but due to the lack of enrollment it was extended to a month. By the end of February 2015, eight youth participants signed up and that met the target number of participants (more than 5). However, after the first phase of the recruitment process, two youth participants dropped out due to scheduling conflicts and 6 remained committed to participating in the study. Data Collection
  25. 25. PHOTOVOICE: EMPOWERING YOUTH IN BOYLE HEIGHTS 18 The data collection strategies for this study are two-fold: engaging youth participants in focus group dialogue and taking photographs. The use of two data collection strategies allows participants the chance to select how they can express themselves. This method is an effective style to engage youth as dynamic participants in research regarding their own surroundings (Darbyshire, MacDougall, & Schiller, 2005). FOCUS GROUPS Each meeting took approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes long with an estimated 8-9 hours contributed by each youth participant. The group discussions took place on Friday afternoons (4:00pm) at the LURN Network headquarters for 6 consecutive weeks. Photovoice Project Timeline: · March 6, 2015: Recruitment Meeting · March 13, 2015: Photography Tips & First Focus Group Meeting · March 20, 2015: Second Focus Group Meeting · April 3, 2015: Third Focus Group Meeting · April 10, 2015: Fourth Focus Group Meeting · April 17, 2015: Debrief & Event Planning Meeting · May 9, 2015: Las Fotos Project Event – Exhibit Photo Discussion Questions (The questions, in addition to the overarching question for this study, were asked during the focus group discussions) · What does gentrification mean to you? · What does community look like in Boyle Heights? · What do I want to tell other people about my Boyle Heights community? · What is social capital? What does it look like in Boyle Heights? · How has the neighborhood in Boyle Heights changed since you've lived here? · Who or what do you feel is responsible for this change? · And what, if anything, could or should be done about it?
  26. 26. PHOTOVOICE: EMPOWERING YOUTH IN BOYLE HEIGHTS 19 · What would change in your neighborhood as a result of gentrification? · What is it about your environment that encourages you to be engaged? At each meeting, youth participants were provided an agenda of planned activities (Appendix I). To encourage group discussion, the SHOWeD method was used to allow the youth to explain their images to each other (Strack et al, 2004). This method outlines six questions to be answered for each image: · What do you See here? · What is really Happening here? · How does this relate to Our lives? · Why does this problem or situation exist? · How could this image Educate others (the community, policy makers, etc.)? · What can we Do about the problem or situation? (Pg. 51) PHOTOGRAPHS Once their scope is tapered and the topic of gentrification is defined, the participants go out in their community to collect photographs. The youth were informed every week with a question that stemmed from the overarching gentrification in Boyle Heights issue. This question was meant to stimulate their minds and allow them to discuss amongst each other before going out in the community and photographing. In addition, the youth were reminded every week to keep the ethics of photography and were each provided with a pocket version of photo ethics by the Executive Director of Las Fotos Project (Appendix G). Data Analysis In this study, data was collected in the form of photographs generated by the participants (which included narratives from the youth), thought bubble posters developed by the youth
  27. 27. PHOTOVOICE: EMPOWERING YOUTH IN BOYLE HEIGHTS 20 participants, and notes created by the graduate student researcher during the workshop. The data collected in this study was examined by using a technique suggested for photovoice analysis by Wang & Burris (1997). Descriptive coding and thematic analysis were utilized to convert photographs and written narratives into several themes. There are three steps to analyze photovoice pieces collected in a photovoice project (Wang & Burris 1997). These steps also represent the methodology that was used by the researchers of this study to analyze the photovoice photographs and narratives collected. In the first step, the student participants jointly select the photographs that they view as the most important and best reflect their perspective on the issue, and can best represent their lived experience, identity, strengths and struggles (Wang & Burris, 1997). These photos were later included in the analytical section of the study. The second step pertains to participants contextualizing the selected photographs by providing details and meaning to each photograph through their written narratives. Wang et al. (1997) stresses the importance of the story-telling aspect, which ensures that the student participants can express themselves and stay within the context of the photographs. The opportunity to share is an important step in exploring the participants’ socio-cultural context of their community’s everyday experiences with gentrification (Darbyshire et al., 2005). This process involved using SHOWeD questions (Appendix A), to critically study the content of the photographs (Wang & Burris, 1997). The final step is the codifying process which involves the student participants helping to identify and code the themes that emerge from the photographic data (Palibroda et al, 2009). Descriptive coding and thematic analysis of the data, was employed for this portion of the study. Selection of Photographs for Las Fotos Project Art Exhibit The youth participants expressed their interest in discussing the art exhibit and how their
  28. 28. PHOTOVOICE: EMPOWERING YOUTH IN BOYLE HEIGHTS 21 photographs would be presented. The youth participated in the planning of the event, development of the flyers (Appendix H), design of the invitations, and advertisement of the exhibit. We also discussed a various methods for us to showcase a representative sample of the research they conducted, given that the Las Fotos Project Exhibit had limited space for the exhibit. We agreed that each member would select their top two photographs that best reflected their response to the overarching query from the research study and that they would provide me with captions that encapsulated each photograph’s message. It was decided that I would have the freedom to arrange the photographs and highlight the themes that surfaced from the data collected by the youth. My knowledge and experience with composition and other aesthetic aspects of photography enhanced the presentation of the photographs, without changing the content provided by the youth, for the exhibit. Role of the Researcher I performed this graduate research study in my pursuit of a post professional Master of Social Work degree in collaboration with my faculty advisor, who is experienced in research and analysis. In order to maintain the integrity of this study, it is essential to convey and state to the readers and reviewers of this study about my role as the graduate student researcher. At various stages of a study, prejudices and biases of the researcher are likely to surface. Therefore, it is important that those biases are presented throughout the study. This section provides my reflections from the study and my beliefs and presumptions. Prior to this research study I have had little experience relevant to social exposure with youth, thus it is less likely that I held some assumptions and opinions about the youth population or the sample that was recruited. There are two distinct similarities that I shared with the sample from the study, the first was identifying with them due to our cultural backgrounds. The second
  29. 29. PHOTOVOICE: EMPOWERING YOUTH IN BOYLE HEIGHTS 22 similarity is the neighborhoods we were raised in, as I was raised nearby in the City of Commerce. Also, none of the participants had any prior social connection with me or my faculty advisor. Consequently, dialogs were less likely to be unfair or unreliable based on prior relationships. The main role of the graduate student researcher was to collect data from youth participants and conduct its analysis, along with the distribution of the ensuing findings. The recruitment of the youth participants was also undertaken by the graduate researcher, in collaboration with aforementioned non-profit leaders from Boyle Heights. The photovoice workshops, pivotal to this study, were facilitated by the graduate student researcher. The graduate student researcher was supervised, guided and assisted by the faculty advisor in order to maintain the reliability of the study. During each photovoice workshop session, notes were created by the graduate student researcher. The researcher was responsible for contacting the participants for scheduling purposes and designing the agenda for each session. He was also engaged in the networking process and establishment of relationships with leadership from Boyle Heights. The organization of the exhibition of photovoice photographs and narratives created by the youth participants was also a responsibility of the graduate student researcher. In the following chapter, an analysis of the workshop results, findings, and an evaluation is produced. The findings are dispersed in various forms (photographs, documentation, and a photograph exhibit at a Las Fotos Project event). The researcher assesses the process of engaging and training the participants on principles of photography. To conclude, the evaluation addresses the discussions that surfaced in each the focus group meetings and the most discussed topics and themes.
  30. 30. PHOTOVOICE: EMPOWERING YOUTH IN BOYLE HEIGHTS 23 CHAPTER IV: RESEARCH RESULTS This chapter presents the steps that were taken by the graduate student researcher, including the implementation and recruitment process for the study. In addition, a breakdown of the focus group meetings is provided along with the participant demographics collected in the study. Then, a participatory and thematic analysis is provided with an explanation and exploration of the common themes identified in the analysis. The chapter concludes with the research findings and they are presented in a thematic format along with the emerging themes that surfaced as a result of the youth participant’s research. Implementing the Study In order to accurately perform the photovoice study I began to contact and meet with non-profit leaders in Boyle Heights to determine their interest in partnering with me for the study. Initially, it was my intention to partner with the East Los Angeles Community Corporation (ELACC) because of their commitment in addressing gentrification and expertise in housing in Boyle Heights. However, after meeting with ELACC President, it became clear that ELACC did not have the workforce capacity and space to perform this study. Still, their President provided two vital contacts that I should consider to partner and collaborate with for this research study, The Executive Director from Las Fotos Project and the Executive Director from LURN Network. Las Fotos Project is a non-profit, community-based photography programwhose mission is to bring about positive change for youngLatinas facing adversity. LURN Network is a non-profit that is committed to revitalizing low-income communities by designing and promoting sustainable communities. After several phone calls and in-person meetings, all three of us agreed to a partnership and to work together on this study. Las Fotos Project agreed to teach the participants some photography techniques, to provide camera equipment and to assist in the recruitment
  31. 31. PHOTOVOICE: EMPOWERING YOUTH IN BOYLE HEIGHTS 24 process. LURN Network provided outreach for recruitment and meeting space for the research study. Prior to the first meeting with the students the project team, the Executive Directors from Las Fotos Project and Lurn Network and myself, met to review and finalize the details of the study, establish a timeline, and discuss participant recruitment. During this meeting, I provided the team with a promotional flyer (Appendix H) that was to be used for recruitment, a consent form for parents of the youth participants to sign and return in both English and Spanish (Appendix B and C), and a copy of the student assent form (Appendix D). In addition, as instructed by Las Fotos Project’s Executive Director, I provided him with a concept proposal to be submitted to the California Endowment to provide additional funds for this study (Appendix E). Recruitment Process Recruitment of the youth participants began by my participation in multiple Boyle Heights coalition meetings that took place in the first Monday of February 2015 and March 2015. These meetings were facilitated and organized by Rudy from LURN Network and there purpose was to gather data from non-profits in Boyle Heights around gentrification. At these meetings, I was able to orally pitch the research study, explain the purpose, and ask the leaders in attendance to provide feedback or suggestions. During February and March, I contacted non- profits in Boyle Heights and asked if it was appropriate to share the research study with their youth participants. Additionally, I contacted Joel Perez from the Wellness Center at the Historic General Hospital and he was able to distribute the recruitment flyer to his e-mail list. Those with questions or interest in participating in the study were asked to contact me and instructed to fill out an online form, which asked basic demographic information (see Figure 1).
  32. 32. PHOTOVOICE: EMPOWERING YOUTH IN BOYLE HEIGHTS 25 The goal was to recruit at 6-10 youth from Boyle Heights from ages 14-22 by February 7, 2015. However, due to low recruitment numbers that date was delayed and pushed back to late February. By February 20th, 2015, eight youth had signed up and the orientation meeting was scheduled to take place the following Friday (February 27, 2015). Due to the youth participants being under the legal age of 18 years, their parent(s) or guardian(s) were asked to attend the recruitment meeting on February 27, 2015. At this meeting, I provided a presentation (See Appendix F) and was able to address all questions myself, both English and Spanish. In addition, the youth served as translators for their parents. The presentation provided the details, purpose and timeline of the study. At the end of the meeting, two attending youth disclosed that they would not be able to take part in the study due to logistics and other commitments. Once the meeting finalized, I provided the youth and parents an assent form (Appendix D) and parental consent forms in English and Spanish (Appendix B and C) that would be signed and returned the following week for the first meeting of the photovoice research study. Three of the six parents preferred that their consent forms be in Spanish, which I was prepared to hand out at the recruitment meeting. Focus Group Meetings The first meeting took place March 3, 2015, it focused on informing the youth on the aim of the study, it introduced them to the photovoice research methodology, and provided the scope of the project. At the beginning of the meeting, all of the required forms were collected and the youth were given the opportunity to address concerns and provide input. Youth Participant 4 asked if it would be possible to add interviews with a Los Angeles MTA staff member and Councilmember Jose Huizar or his staff member to the action portion of the project. This prompted Youth Participant 5 to ask if it would be possible to film interviews with the
  33. 33. PHOTOVOICE: EMPOWERING YOUTH IN BOYLE HEIGHTS 26 community members after the data collection was completed. I addressed both by thanking them for their suggestions and offering to look into both by the following meeting. The second meeting took place March 10, 2015 and it began with an ice breaker and introductions for the six youth participants that committed to the project. Next, a presentation by the Executive Director, Las Fotos Project on photography techniques, and photography ethics discussion (safety and respect) took place. To practice their newly acquired photography techniques the youth were split into two groups and sent on a photography scavenger hunt. To conclude this session, the youth were re-introduced to the overarching question for the project: What is gentrification and how does it impact me in Boyle Heights? A subsequent question for youth to consider during their research was what does community look like in your (Boyle Heights) neighborhood? Is it affected by displacement? The youth participants were given a week to take pictures and asked to select 2-3 that best represented their response to the prompts. The purpose of the focus groups was to engage the youth participants in a safe space that allowed them to define the topic of gentrification in their words and to taper the scope of the photographs they took (Freeman & Mathison, 2009). A document using the SHOWeD method was provided to each participant to guide their thoughts during their documentation process. The third session began with a review of the previous week and then each participant was asked to share and describe one picture. During the group discussion portion, the youth participants were guided through the sharing process to ignite thoughtful dialogue. This process was done until all of their chosen pictures were shared. Each meeting focused on the progress of the project for the youth participants and was an opportunity for them to ask questions and bring up concerns. After five focus group progress meetings, a meeting took place to debrief, prepare, and plan for the exhibit. At this meeting, the youth participants selected the pictures that best represented their
  34. 34. PHOTOVOICE: EMPOWERING YOUTH IN BOYLE HEIGHTS 27 answer to the overarching question from the study. At the end of this meeting, the group stressed their desire to take an additional action-related step by conducting three to five community interviews. As the facilitator, I guided them through this plan and the result was three questions that they agreed to ask community members. This component of the research study was unplanned but given that it is a participatory approach research that is intended to build the capacity of the researcher participants I assisted them in carrying out this portion. The final meeting took place May 9, 2015 in the form of a Las Fotos Project Event. This event was open to the community and was an opportunity for the youth participants to display their research, discuss it, and inform their community on what took place. Participant Demographics Co-Researchers Gender Age Zip Code Youth Participant 1 Female 16 90023 Youth Participant 2 Female 16 90001 Youth Participant 3 Female 16 90063 Youth Participant 4 Female 15 90011 Youth Participant 5 Male 16 90023 Youth Participant 6 Male 15 90023 Figure 1. DemographicsTable The six youth participants are all in the 11th grade at and attend Roosevelt High School in Boyle Heights. Youth Participants Initially, eight youth from the Boyle Heights community were recruited as participants. However, two of the participants withdrew from the study after the recruitment phase due to time
  35. 35. PHOTOVOICE: EMPOWERING YOUTH IN BOYLE HEIGHTS 28 commitment issues. The youth participants engaged in photovoice workshops, spanning around a time period of approximately seven weeks, and provided data in the form of photographs and narratives. They also engaged in group dialogs with themselves, along with the researchers to present their views and concerns relevant to the research questions. Participatory Analysis Selecting Photographs The selection process for the youth began by preparing the photographic data for analysis. To begin, the youth participants selected photographs that were the most meaningful to them and best reflected the story they wanted to tell about gentrification and displacement in Boyle Heights. To ease the burden of the selection process, a set of questions was used as a guide for the youth as they decided whether or not to select and include each photograph for their story and presentation. The questions included: · Does this photograph relate to our theme of displacement/gentrification? · Do you have a story or something to tell about this photograph? · Is it important to you that we select this photograph? The students collectively selected photographs. By the end of the initial data collection phase, the students had taken X photographs. Through the selection process, they identified X duplicate photographs that were eliminated from the data set, they decided not to include X, they were uncertain about X, and they felt collectively confident in X. As a whole, the youth displayed an eagerness to explain why they decided to photograph certain places or things, where they took it, and what it meant to them. At one point, Youth Participant 6 yelled, “This is so much fun!” As I listened to the group, it was clear they were all excited for me to hear their responses and explanations. This was the point in the project, when I
  36. 36. PHOTOVOICE: EMPOWERING YOUTH IN BOYLE HEIGHTS 29 confirmed that I had established trust and reciprocity with the youth participants. The process seemed interactive and fun, and they were freely sharing their perspective. Contextualizing The second step pertains to participants contextualizing the selected photographs by providing details and meaning to each photograph through their written narratives. Due to the exuberance displayed by the youth participants around the context of the photographs, I made adjustments in my facilitation process for the contextualization phase. As planned, the phase was to be done as an independent activity that the youth could work on throughout the week between our sessions. Some weeks, the youth preferred to fill out the SHOWeD form (Appendix A) during the meeting for their favorite photograph from that week. It is important to note that this process was completed as a collaborative group during the beginning of the meeting where each youth shared their selection of photographs. It was in the contextualization phase that the youth participants conveyed interest in going back to reshoot photographs that were to replace or add to existing shots. Youth Participant 4 commented “I think I need to get a better picture,” and “that reminds me of another photograph I think we need to take.” With new photographs added over the course of study, we repeated the selecting and contextualizing process until finally the data set was reduced to include 24 photographs and corresponding context. Unsurprisingly, the youth participants engaged in this emergent research design, which added depth to the study that I could not have accomplished had the study design been more structure oriented. Coding The coding phase is an opportunity for the youth participants to classify their photographs. The group classified their images and context according to concepts identified in
  37. 37. PHOTOVOICE: EMPOWERING YOUTH IN BOYLE HEIGHTS 30 the focus group analysis, which included community/environment, social capital, and gentrification/displacement. The resulting product includes the photographic images and community interview videos. I provided a copy of the digital content to each of the youth participants at the conclusion of the study. Thematic Analysis As an outcome of the thematic analysis process, which included coding and organizing the data, six themes emerged. The six themes are words and phrases that summarize my interpretation of the attributes of the youth participants’ photographs and stories that characterize their perspective about gentrification and displacement in Boyle Heights. Findings This section of the chapter presents findings from the data analysis. Data for this study included photovoice pieces (generated by the participant), SHOWeD documentation, and a photography exhibition at a Las Fotos Project event. The data collected was analyzed using descriptive coding and thematic analysis. Discussion of Themes Six themes emerged during the analysis of the youths’ data set that included their photographs and stories around gentrification and displacement in Boyle Heights. The six themes as a whole reflect my understanding of the youths’ insight on displacement and gentrification in the Boyle Heights community. The themes materialized as an outcome of the participatory and the thematic analyses. The themes that emerged from the photographs were undesired change, lost opportunities and friendships, social ties and support, unaddressed community needs (the youth’s needs), fear, and “our barrios, our terms”. Theme 1: Undesired Change
  38. 38. PHOTOVOICE: EMPOWERING YOUTH IN BOYLE HEIGHTS 31 A resounding theme that emerged from the data collected by the youth was their concern over unwanted developments in Boyle Heights. Figures 2 and 3 are examples of how the youth view developers and their actions. Although well intended, the youth showed how Los Angeles County Metro added bicycle racks which the youth noted that they go unused. They reiterated the lack of development in certain areas through their photographs and pondered why those properties are not selected for development. Figure 2. Youth Participant 5 photograph: Metro The youth participants expressed, in unison, their displeasure with redevelopment that has occurred or will occur in Boyle Heights. They felt as Youth Participant 5 said, “We’re not involved in these big decisions that have a big impact in our lives”. They perceived the importance of having an inclusive process where everyone in the community of Boyle Heights has a say.
  39. 39. PHOTOVOICE: EMPOWERING YOUTH IN BOYLE HEIGHTS 32 “They waste so much money on changing things here. They added these colorful bike racks on a lot of blocks but no one uses them. I didn’t ask for them. My mom and dad didn’t ask for this” The undesired changes the youth referenced often focused around the five sites that Los Angeles County Metro has proposed within Boyle Heights. Instead, to counter the proposed developments, the youth offered alternatives in their photographs for desired change in Boyle Heights. Figure 3. Youth Participant 6 photograph: Empty Lot The youth identified several sites in their photographs with empty lots. Areas that are bare and could be used for development projects. As Youth Participant 6 said,
  40. 40. PHOTOVOICE: EMPOWERING YOUTH IN BOYLE HEIGHTS 33 “I don’t get it. They want to “revitalize” Mariachi Plaza where many people hang out including myself and friends. Here is a space that’s been empty for a long time. Revitalize this.” Theme 2: Lost Opportunities and Friendships Special concern was shown by each of the youth around loss. They experienced loss in different forms, from friendships, family, to opportunities that are no longer available. As discussions furthered, one clear example that magnified loss was shown in Figure 4. Figure 4. Youth Participant 6 photograph: Oscar De La Hoya Animo Charter School For Youth Participant 6, this Oscar De La Hoya Animo Charter School evoked feelings of loss. Prior to this establishment’s existence was a boxing gym and youth center. The youth informed us that he didn’t have many options growing up to exercise and work out but he was
  41. 41. PHOTOVOICE: EMPOWERING YOUTH IN BOYLE HEIGHTS 34 determined to sign up at the gym. Unfortunately, by the time he became eligible the gym had been redeveloped into a school. “I was set on going to that gym, I remember the first time I tried going they told me I didn’t meet the age minimum…it’s gone now and nothing like it is around me.” For others in the group, loss came in the form of friendships. Friendships that ended when their peers were forced to move out of the area. Some as far as Northern California. Youth Participant 5 noted this by photographing the house where his friend used to reside in. Now, it is owned by someone that does not take part in the communal neighborhood. For Youth Participant 3, she experienced and showcased a community member’s loss in the form of Boyle Height’s historic roots. During her research at the Food 4 Less grocery store, a community member explained to her that a statue of a bell was the last remnant of a church that used exist there. For the youth, there is loss and an empty void that they have been tasked to fill as a result of displacement. Theme 3: Social Ties and Support Youth expressed the value they saw in social connections through several of their photographs. Figure 5 and Figure 6 are clear but few of the many examples of social capital that were collected in the study. A social connection that surfaced, outside of the proceeding Figures, was the bond between neighbors and the community. One youth illustrated this bond through a photograph of a fence, another through the food vendors that set up outside of his apartment complex. The youth showcase the value of the social ties and the support they receive from such relationships is cemented through their words.
  42. 42. PHOTOVOICE: EMPOWERING YOUTH IN BOYLE HEIGHTS 35 Figure 5. Youth Participant 3 photograph: Liquor Store The group offered many photographs depicting forms of social capital and connections within their neighborhoods. The photographs portrayed a sense of place, or belonging, within their immediate environment, and also a connection to their local Boyle Heights community. They expressed these connections in terms of sharing spaces, equipment and resources as well as appreciation for friendliness and feeling welcome. “My local neighborhood liquor store is my back up when I’m running late to school or when we need to get “el mandado” (groceries). I know the owner so well that he has my own tab! (Youth Participant 3 laughs)”
  43. 43. PHOTOVOICE: EMPOWERING YOUTH IN BOYLE HEIGHTS 36 Youth Participant 1 demonstrated social capital with a photograph or the street food vendors. Herself, and the rest of the group, expressed their reliance on these vendors and the relationships that exist with them and their family members. The youth were well aware of the ongoing discussions within Los Angeles County City Council regarding the rights of street food vendors to sell their product. The group overwhelmingly expressed their concern and willingness to support the vendors in their upcoming challenges. Another form of social capital that was presented to the group was by Youth Participant 2. She presented the group with a picture of the local “curandera” at her home. This local healer uses folk remedies to help her customers overcome illnesses. The youth participant felt compelled to present a small business owner that has felt the harmful effects of gentrification. Figure 6. Youth Participant 2 photograph: La Curandera
  44. 44. PHOTOVOICE: EMPOWERING YOUTH IN BOYLE HEIGHTS 37 “She really was happy to be able to express her concerns with me. She told me that her business has struggled because less locals are around to visit her business. Yet she remained optimistic and insisted her doors were open to the community.” An observation that was made by Youth Participant 2 made that the rest of the group did not touch on was seeing themselves as their own social support. As the research study has progressed, the group have bonded and together they have vocalized their concerns and support for issues in their Boyle Heights community. Theme 4: Unaddressed Community Needs, Our Needs As a result of the youth’s displeasure with developments in Boyle Heights, unmet and undressing needs surfaced in the photographs. Figure 7 and Figure 8 demonstrate the youth’s identification of needs related to their environment that are not being addressed by those in power. For the youth, the need for clean streets, a local hospital, rights for food vendors, and green space where highlighted and documented through their photographs.
  45. 45. PHOTOVOICE: EMPOWERING YOUTH IN BOYLE HEIGHTS 38 Figure 7. Youth Participant 4 photograph: Trash As the youth participants continued to gather photographic data through the course of the study, one issue that emerged for a majority of the group was trash. The youth discussed at length the need to clean up their neighborhoods. Another example provided to the group was by Youth Participant 3. She showed Hollenbeck Park lakes full of trash and made her point as to how unappealing it makes it to her and her family. The need to clean up the city was expressed by all with different personal examples after she presented her data. However, they felt that cleaning up Boyle Heights was not a priority of City Council Member Jose Huizar. As Youth Participant 4 stated, “he has been so busy trying to get re-elected that he never bothered to clean up our neighborhoods.”
  46. 46. PHOTOVOICE: EMPOWERING YOUTH IN BOYLE HEIGHTS 39 Figure 8. Youth Participant 2 photograph: Linda Vista Community Hospital (Senior Apartments) This photograph depicts the Linda Vista Community Hospital which is being redeveloped into housing for seniors. However, Youth Participant 2 notes that community could have been better off with a renovation and restoration to the hospital. The rest of the group was conflicted but ultimately agreed with her. “I would actually prefer if they had just renovated the hospital to provide more health resources to people because the closest hospital with an emergency room is White Memorial.” This was another example of a need that was identified by the youth that was a struggle for them as they felt that they had to compromise the need for health for the need for shelter. Theme 5: Fear
  47. 47. PHOTOVOICE: EMPOWERING YOUTH IN BOYLE HEIGHTS 40 Some of the youth provided imagery that elicited a sense of fear. A photograph presented by one youth of Starbucks brought forth a serious discussion around corporations trying to establish themselves in Boyle Heights. Although there is the only one Starbucks coffee shop in Boyle Heights the youth participants presented apprehension in their discussions. To them, one Starbucks leads to multiple Starbucks and soon after McDonald’s would arrive with multiple locations following suit. This photograph of Starbucks created a dialogue among the group that extended up until the very last sessions. Another concern that was shared between the participants was the removal of community businesses that were established and run by community members. A photograph of a recently closed restaurant was just as impactful, in part, because it evoked talk among the group for what is to come if action does not take place. Figure 9. Youth Participant 3 photograph: Starbucks, Olympic & Soto.
  48. 48. PHOTOVOICE: EMPOWERING YOUTH IN BOYLE HEIGHTS 41 The youth voiced their displeasure with chain stores and restaurants opening up in Boyle Heights. The group shared a sense of fear that the first stores opening up are a sign of what is to come in their neighborhoods. They noted this area as an example of the contrast between a historic site, the Sears Tower, and a brand new Starbucks coffee shop. “This photo depicts a community that is being invaded by big corporations. This relates to my life because I see the way vendors in the street sell their own food, but companies like Starbucks are taking that away from us.” Other examples fear were express before by the local “Curandera” business owner. As expressed earlier, the youth were as concerned as she was in regards to the changes that have occurred thus far. Although not always expressed explicitly in their photographs, the youth noted that discussions they had with community members always presented an element of fear for, as Youth Participant states, “what is to come.” Theme 6: Our Barrios, Our Terms (resistance) Not only did the youth express commitment, interest, and mindfulness of their built environment, they also portrayed a genuine concern for their Boyle Heights' community members. They perceived the importance of including input from the stakeholders and making them part of the planning process. This theme presented itself through Figure 10. This photograph served as a catalyst for the youth to think of other forms of resistance to development and incorporate that into their photographs. Another photograph depicted by the youth involved parents at a meeting at a charter school where they objected to certain development proposals. This theme, really set the tone for action-related activities the youth launched soon after the data collection part of the study finalized.
  49. 49. PHOTOVOICE: EMPOWERING YOUTH IN BOYLE HEIGHTS 42 Figure 10. Youth Participant 4 photograph: Stop Gentrification At the beginning of the study, the youth brought forth several theories around consequences of gentrification. By the end, they had a clearer depiction of those consequences which led them to seek solutions and above all, resist the displacement efforts. “We’ve heard about other communities nearby that have already been gentrified. Now they’re trying to force people from our neighborhoods out. We won’t be moved without a fight.” This theme presented itself in the dialogue portion of every weekly meeting. It was prevalent enough to mention due to groups energy that was spent on strategizing on what actions can be taken by themselves in order to prevent their neighborhoods from gentrifying. It also
  50. 50. PHOTOVOICE: EMPOWERING YOUTH IN BOYLE HEIGHTS 43 resurfaces in the community interviews that youth set out to conduct on their own after the final photograph data selection meeting took place. Their efforts went so far as to reaching out and establishing relationships with LURN Network staff. Las Fotos Project Art Exhibit Advertising for the art exhibit was done primarily through Las Fotos Project, given that it was their event, we were provided a space to showcase our photographic results to the community. Many people attended the art exhibit, approximately 300 community members, and various guests reported having to wait in line to get into the gallery section to see the exhibit. Two of the youth participants were unable to attend the event due to prior family obligations but they assured me that they would have attended. The youth personally reached out and invited a representative from Los Angeles County Metro, a staff member from Councilman Huizar’s office, Boyle Heights non-profits, and the Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council. They were enthused to see that a member of the Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council attended and asked them several questions in regards to the results that they found from the data they collected. Additionally, many leaders from Boyle Heights non-profits did attend and dropped by to thank and congratulate the youth for their research. Unfortunately, no one from Los Angeles County Metro nor City Councilmember Huizar’s staff attended the event. However, after the event the youth decided to approach both parties again with the results of their data and explained that they would be seeking an interview from both as well.
  51. 51. PHOTOVOICE: EMPOWERING YOUTH IN BOYLE HEIGHTS 44 Figure 11. Las Fotos Art Exhibit. To the youth participants’ delight, there was an overwhelming amount of positive feedback from the individuals that attended the art exhibit. One audience member commented on how thought provoking the photographs and narratives were for her. She explained, “Beautiful, I had been waiting for someone to start talking about this issue more. It’s great to see that we are providing our youth an opportunity to speak about how they feel about displacement.” Another audience member commented in Spanish, “Yo no sabia que esto se llama gentrificacion pero si e sentido los efectos de esto.” Which roughly translates to “I didn’t know this was called gentrification but I have felt the effects of this.” These and many more comments from the attendees of the art exhibit express the nature and potential of participatory-based research for reaching a broad audience beyond that of academia. In addition, these audience reflections emphasized how community engagement is vital to this process and shows how the active process of creating meaning behind the research is likely to have transformative potential.
  52. 52. PHOTOVOICE: EMPOWERING YOUTH IN BOYLE HEIGHTS 45 CHAPTER V: DISCUSSION This chapter illustrates the importance of the findings and their implications in engaging a youthful audience in an old conversation regarding gentrification in Boyle Heights. The chapter begins with a review of the findings and then discusses the implications of the research findings for alleviating struggles faced by community members from Boyle Heights, more specifically, the youth. This chapter also focuses on the recommendations provided by the youth participants, highlighting the means to reinforce the existing resources and importance of addressing needed resources. The purpose of the research study was to understand the effects of gentrification in Boyle Heights by cataloging the lived experience of youth through the methodology of photovoice. The photovoice method provides an opportunity to bring together individuals and empower communities to work for long-social change. Visual images can serve to educate and influence social workers, academics, influential community advocates and policymakers to work on gentrification policy issues. Six youth participants were recruited as participants and co- researchers that took photographs and wrote their narratives while engaging in discussions about their lived experiences. The data was obtained in the form of personal narratives, discussion transcripts (SHOWeD) which were analyzed using a thematic analysis and a debriefing meeting that took place after the May 9th Las Fotos Project Art Exhibit. As a result, findings emerged in the form of six themes which were used to depict the views and thoughts of youth from Boyle Heights around the issue of gentrification in Boyle Heights. Significance of the Findings Six themes surfaced during the analysis of the youth’s data set that included their photographs and written narratives around gentrification and its implications for Boyle Heights.
  53. 53. PHOTOVOICE: EMPOWERING YOUTH IN BOYLE HEIGHTS 46 In their entirety, the six themes reflect my interpretation of the youth’s perception of gentrification and the consequences of displacement. The themes that emerged were undesired change, lost opportunities and friendships, social ties and support, unaddressed community needs (the youth’s needs), fear, and “our barrios, our terms” (resistance to displacement). Although there is certainly value in the traditional quantitative methods used in research, the photovoice method for this study offered a new perspective on the issue of gentrification through a new youthful audience. This allowed me to listen directly from the youth that are from Boyle Heights about their everyday environment through photographs and stories. To my knowledge, a youth’s perspective has yet to be documented in literature that focuses on gentrification using qualitative methods. This study demonstrates how gentrification and displacement impacts a community and illustrates the cost of displacement for youth. Through this study, I learned about Boyle Heights, its community members, and their value intimately from the youth participants who spend their days learning in the local schools, working and playing there. Although this study consists of perceptions from a small cohort of youth, the results are significant in many ways. This study documents a participatory method for researching gentrification that policy makers, institutions, and organizations can use as a meaningful way to evaluate local city issues. The photovoice method that was used for this study engages youth as co-researchers in the documentation and analysis of their unique perspectives and in creating meaning from their everyday experiences in their built environment. The qualitative method employed in this study provides meaningful and rich information that can inform decision makers on future developments in Boyle Heights, especially those that impact the youth. Additionally, the findings from this research study help raise consciousness around the issue of gentrification and displacement in Boyle Heights. This is significant given that there are
  54. 54. PHOTOVOICE: EMPOWERING YOUTH IN BOYLE HEIGHTS 47 five redevelopment sites in Boyle Heights that are pending and the Sears Tower is also in a proposal stage for revitalization. The findings from the study address the complex relationship between youth and their built environment. The study aids in helping understand how social connectivity and social capital is embedded in the discussions around gentrification. In addition, it offers some opportunities for policy makers, community organizations and the Boyle Heights leaders to work together to facilitate more involvement of youth in the modification and creation of the built environment of Boyle Heights. Limitations Despite the best efforts of the graduate research student, a participatory research study is expected to have limitations. In this study, a major limitation was having a representative sample. The graduate student researcher employed various methods for youth participant recruitment. A flyer was created and distributed around physically and electronically. Along with those efforts, the graduate student researcher also presented the research study opportunity to non-profit leaders at multiple convening’s that centered on addressing the issue of gentrification in Boyle Heights. In spite of those efforts, a small number (eight) of participants were recruited. Unfortunately, two withdrew from the study after the information meeting due to scheduling conflicts. Their withdrawal limited the sample size of youth participants and the breadth of the study. Time commitment from the youth was another limitation of the study. Unfortunately, a couple of the youth were not present for every focus group discussion which may have limited the sharing of ideas. Two different youth were unable to attend a session, one due to personal reasons and the other was due to a school advance placement examination. However, to mitigate
  55. 55. PHOTOVOICE: EMPOWERING YOUTH IN BOYLE HEIGHTS 48 their absences, the graduate student researcher asked more questions and provided immediate feedback to gain a deeper understanding of the discussions from the youth. Recommendations for Future Research This research assisted in the recognition of the youth’s experience in Boyle Heights during a period when gentrifying factors are influencing changes in their community. The opportunities for a continuation of scholarly research that can evolve from this work are extensive. Specifically, the continued development of innovative participatory research methods that involve youth in research. It would be beneficial to evaluate a larger group of youth, from various cultures and from a grander geographical setting, in order to learn multiple perspectives and offer policy makers and other decision making entities richer data to base their decisions on. Concluding Remarks By implementing a qualitative research method, photovoice, I learned that we cannot ignore the voices from our community, regardless of age and lived experience. The youth who participated as co-researchers in the study described specific and personal themes that I could not have surmised myself. As I explored the multifaceted relationships between qualities of the physical, cultural and social environment depicted in the photographic images and in the context of the images, I perceived that the youth developed an understanding and awareness of gentrification and the consequences it can have in their community, as well as their capacity to address such an issue. By conducting research with the youth and collaborating together with them I was able to ask them to share their unique perspectives and in their own words. As a result of using their voices through their photographs and narratives, it is possible to see what is truly important to the youth in their community. The themes that emerged tell a clear story about how the youth
  56. 56. PHOTOVOICE: EMPOWERING YOUTH IN BOYLE HEIGHTS 49 have a genuine and vested interest in the development of their surroundings. When the perspective of youth is taken into account, we can use this information to create, inform and modify policies where they live in a way that not only protects their well-being but also stimulates their development.
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