Participatory Action Research is based on the principle that using researchers from within a given community to gather data will result in much more clear and honest answers from the study participants. Street PAR is the application of this principle to the urban communities that Dr. Yasser Payne is studying. Street participatory action research (PAR) explicitly organizes low-income persons, active in or closely identified with the streets and criminal justice system--to empirically document the lived experiences of street life-oriented people of color primarily in local street communities, schools, and/or correctional facilities. The assumption is that individuals, active or formerly involved with the streets, are best poised to critically examine the individual and structural experiences of a population that have been mostly ignored, dismissed, or forgotten by most of society, including many in the racial and ethnic neighborhoods in which they reside. Community researchers interested in organizing research designs for and with the streets have to more aggressively revise and reframe explanations and methods for studying street life-oriented behavior so that policies and interventions can better connect to and more accurately reflect their lived experiences. Street PAR is a method of collecting and analyzing data, but it is also an intervention for Street PAR members. Street PAR assumes and argues that there are not enough effective and/or well-resourced programs designed for street-identified people of color. It is an aggressive intervention designed to transition those in the streets out of the streets, and/or provides them with means for upward mobility by offering high quality and rigorous economic and educational opportunities.
In the case of The People's Report, Dr. Payne and a coalition of community partners trained 15 participants from the communities of East Side and Southbridge to conduct research into the causes of physical violence in the city of Wilmington, and to assess the psychological health of its residents.
Street PAR is not only a means of gathering data, but also a useful way to empower the researchers, to provide meaningful employment during the study, and to legitimize the concerns of the community with multimedia tools that include documentary film, academic publications, and the study findings. Dr. Payne's goal is to create a Street PAR center in Wilmington that will provide training, employment, and opportunity for members of the communities in which he conducts future research projects.
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