Thursday, June 5, 2014

Research Proposal: I am my hair: The effects of colonization on hair and beauty practices in Namibia and Sierra Leone

I am my hair:
The effects of colonization on hair and beauty practices in Namibia and Sierra Leone
Tina Terrell Brown
Georgia State University

Author Note

Tina Brown, Department of Psychology, Georgia State University
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Tina Brown, P.O. Box 5010, Department of Psychology, Georgia State University, Atlanta, Georgia 30302-5010.  Email:

Statement of Topic
            There are silent colonial repercussions that exist in the form of diminished self-identity, self-esteem, cultural value and camaraderie among African people due to apartheid and various forms of colonization (Hocoy, 2000).
            A deep survey on the perceptions of hair, beauty and self-identity among colonized and traditional African cultures may reveal the deprivation of positive self-identity for those whom have been forced to adopt or conform under Western influence. This proposal will validate the anticipated research of hair beautification and self-identity for African women in non-colonized areas in contrast to colonized areas that were and still are much more subject to Western influence and power.
            Hair happens to be a form of significant cultural value that is shared and highly valued among most African women. In a 2000 exhibition review, Sieber and Herreman explain African hair styling is extremely significant in tribal distinction, ceremonies, social status, mating practices, aesthetics, ethnicity or even personal reflection. Distinct hair braiding practices and styling such as cornrowing originated out of western Africa, specifically the Nok civilization of Nigeria (History of Cornrow Braiding, n.d.). In Radiance from the Waters: Ideals of Feminine Beauty in Mende Art, Sylvia Ardyn Boone explores the culture and practice of hair braiding and styling as a traditional grooming technique. She also reveals the relationship hair has to the perceived notion of a woman’s status, hygiene, femininity and even fertility for females of the Mende culture in Sierra Leone.
            The Mende people of Sierra Leone remained independent of direct colonialism influence, and several adulthood rituals, rites of passage and beautification practices involving hair maintenance, treatment and styling remain intact today. Other southwestern African states such as Namibia that were widely and rigidly colonialized by German settlers, lost value of their traditions as well as the freedom to practice them.
            African hair also represents a constant query and interest of outside groups. There has long been an obsession with the variety of African hair texture. Books such as Man by Dr. R. Ruggles Gates has an entire chapter devoted to the an intricate table and breakdown of hair types observed in South Africa. A table less involved but with added racial hierarchy context can be seen in a research study titled Table for the General Shape of Negroe’s Hair by Júnior & Rodrigues.
            An analysis of data collected through in depth surveys in both Sierra Leone and Namibia would bring a deeper understanding of how colonialism affects not only hair practices but overall beautification and ultimately the relationship it has to self-image and self-identity.
            A direct comparison of self-identity has not been made between African women who experienced the depletion of their traditions and those whom are free to practice as they see fit. An investigation of hair and grooming practices of the colonized region of Namibia and the non-colonized region of Sierra Leone can be the first among several steps to explore culturally relevant themes of beauty and self-perception. It is important to understand the relationship between self-esteem and self-worth and how that is connected to hair styling and beautification for African women.
            In his 2000 study, Hocoy explains that although many negative consequences may be born out of harsh colonization and diminished cultural practices, many positive responses such as esteem, coping skills and racial identification are developed unconsciously.
            An attempt to more accurately assess the psychology behind African beauty practices and the effects of colonization is necessary in developing a more culturally aware system to address problems specifically in Africa (Hocoy, 1999). Another study in 1999 conducted by Elirea Bornman found a strong link between the perceived status of an in-group such as race, skin color or hair and the level of satisfaction with self.
            Self-image can be defined in many different ways. In Radiance from the Waters, Boone beautifully describes the culture and practices specifically for Mende women.  Hair styling and grooming plays a significant role in self-identity, group inclusion, societal and cultural status. The air tight secret societies for both men and women in the Mende culture allow sacred traditions to be passed down and practiced by future generations.
            For other populations, such as the ancient kingdoms of Northern Namibia, most of their traditions have been lost through the force of German colonizers that considered the ancient practices to be barbaric and savage like behavior. A European standard was set and enforced to achieve what was thought to be “civilized” practices (Shigwedha, 2006).
Aims and Significance
            This study intends to find the relationship of colonization to self-identity for Africans as it regards their hair and beauty regimens. Hair being an extremely important cultural phenomenon will be the basis for a contrasting comparison of Namibian women and Mende women. The goal is to bridge the gap in research by comparing two historically different (colonized and not colonized) groups for a better understanding of how colonization destroys not only cultural practices but unwillingly divides and segregates groups and families. Thereby limiting the traditions carried forward using fear, intimidation or even death, certain eccentricities can be lost along with healthy self-identity and esteem.
            Research conducted by Dan Hocoy and Elirea Bornman separately in 1999 was a great contribution in the field of cultural psychology, specifically for South Africa. This research proposal aims to add value and significance to this same field of study. By collecting a new body of data, we can begin to understand on a macro level what it really means to have positive self- identity and self-image. On a micro level, a deeper and culturally relevant understanding can begin about the construction of these ideas for diverse individuals.
Background and History
     Northern Namibia and the Ancient Kingdoms
            Set in South Africa, Namibia's west coast sits along the Atlantic Ocean. With inhabitants since 14 A.D., Namibia has a long a jaded past of being ruled and controlled by outside forces. In Namibia Under German Rule, Helmut Bley describes in detail the catastrophic impact of multiple wars, colonization, economic and political ruin that took place in Namibia. In 1884, German colonialism came into the region and Namibia remained within the grasp of harsh control and dominance until the end of World War I.  It was then mandated over to South Africa by the League of Nations in 1920 (Bley, 1996 ; Dore, 1991). During this time, the rules of apartheid were enforced. What was left of this country after the internal wars of Nama and Herero, was then salvaged and divided among European settlers. Bley also builds a strong argument to explain how the brazen acts of the German settlers caused divide among the native people.
            Building on this societal breakdown is Lovisa T. Nampala, co-author of Aawambo Kingdoms, History and Cultural Change. Perspectives from Northern Namibia. This book gives extraordinary detail and historical reference to the original Kingdoms and social circles of Northern, Namibia. Nampala brings focus to three major kingdoms that all experienced colonialism, but at different times and to different degrees. Her research hypothesizes that there may have been a difference in the amount of colonial interference and therefore cultural shifts based on the country invading, the amount of contact with the invading country, and the political systems in place.
            Co-author of Aawambo Kingdoms,  Vilho Shigwedha explains in vivid detail along with imagery how important and significant cultural costumes and beauty practices were to the Aawambo kingdoms. His thesis examines how and why Christianity and colonialism changed and displaced the traditional culture of the people from the Aawambo kingdoms which we now know as Northern, Namibia. He also details the link between the construction, value and identity of these societies to their traditional costumes and practices is very strong. Although colonialism gave strong influence and direction to abandon these practices, they were extremely well developed and the equivalent of any modern civilization today.
            Hair styling for Aawambo women was seen as a significant source of communication to the inner circles of society. Age, class and gender all had distinct hair rituals that spoke volumes about the person's status and affiliation. In a blog by Cosmic Yoruba, she provides amazing images of West African styles of pre-colonial eras. Girls starting at the age of six wore differentiating hairstyles from childhood through puberty onto adulthood. Hairstyles were used to signify the different stages of development from maturation, fertility, preparation for marriage, initiation and full womanhood. Men also had hairstyles to signify their age, affiliation and social status (Shigwedha, 2006).
Hairstyling also served as a marker of kinship between wives and husbands, mothers and daughters, elders and younger generations. Generational wisdom and traditional values were communicated and connected through hair practices (Shigwedha, 2006).
    The Secret Society and Mende Culture of Sierra Leone
            Sierra Leone is a West African country bordered by Guinea and the Atlantic Ocean. There are fourteen districts within the four administrative regions. There are roughly sixteen ethnicities throughout, each with a native language and set of customs. The two largest groups are Temne and Mende. The Mende society is a highly elaborate and discrete culture. Highly guarded by an initiated group of members, its practices are rarely researched and as Boone elaborates in Radiance, research that has been completed, somehow vanishes from archives.
            The Mende are described as a very strong and vibrant group with both political and cultural dominance. They managed to take control over several regions of Sierra Leone, currently spanning the entire southern region. The Mende were also triumphant in battling the British and keeping out other infiltrators of colonialism. There was a short period of British rule from 1898 to 1961 but the Mende people were able to keep their customs and traditions intact and carried them forward even still today (Boone, 1986).
            There are two groups within the Mende. Those that have been initiated into the secret society are known as harlemo. The others that have not been initiated or are from outside cultures are considered kpowa, usually know as ignorant and simple-minded (Boone, 1986).
            The initiated society has access to all knowledge of human nature and science. This enlightenment process is a necessity for Mende. The female population of this group is known as Sande. The Sande woman is one that possesses knowledge, power and responsibility. She possesses all knowledge of caring for her home, children, beautification, ethics and healing practices. The good name of the society is upheld through the grooming and etiquette practices of Sande women (Little, 1951).
            Hair is intrinsic in its value and status especially among Mende women. Men wear closely shaven hair and are thought to not possess hair at all. Women on the other hand bask in the glory of their hair. The more hair you have, the more feminine and beautiful you are viewed.  Abundant and plentiful hair is directly related to a woman's beauty, value and esteem as Boone has investigated. Presentable hair is always groomed extensively. Washing, moisturizing and oiling of the hair is a standard practice as well as making sure the hair is jet black in color. Other  colors  indicate uncleanness or not being properly groomed (Boone, 1986 ; White, 1987).
    The Sterilization of Namibia
            A German instrument called the Haarfarbentafel was a color and texture hair chart manufactured in the early 20th century. In the introduction of  The Archaeology of Race: The Eugenic Ideas of Francis Galton and Flinders Petrie by Debbie Challis, it explains this chart, similar to a hair color swatch seen in salons to today was used to create race hierarchy, determine worth, oppress and even justify killing African people. Its target was specifically those in the Northern Namibian kingdoms that were thought to be of mixed-heritage. Hair texture was used to determine if individuals needed to be executed. A recent lecture and film event title Death by Hair was presented in London at The University of Central London (UCL). The UCL museum actually owns a rare Haarfarbentafel that was developed and designed in the early 20th century by Eugen Fischer. The item known as a “killing machine” in the Archeology of Race was used as part of the eugenics cleansing movement in which Fischer promoted and carried out racial sterilization of mixed heritage populations in southwest Africa, known today as Namibia.
            According to Michael Williams in the article Hitler’s Holocaust Blueprint, the tragedies that occurred against the Namibia people would later set the foundation of what Hitler would us against the Jews.
            Although, these practices are long gone and would seem unacceptable today, the lasting effects can more than likely be seen in the self-identity, esteem and cultural norms among men and women and their ritual of beautification practices today in those regions (Bornman, 1999).
Justification for Study
            There have been many studies looking at the effects of apartheid on South Africans. While this period in history has caused much trauma and cultural breakdown, there have been other detrimental colonial events in which psychological damage has been done to the native people of Africa. Conducting a comparison survey will allow more knowledge to be acquired towards understanding the real effects of colonialism as it relates to psychological trauma. This work will posit to fill a gap in determining just how different self-identity and self-image develop when there is deep rooted colonialism and when there is not.
            Adequate and extensively thorough research does not fully exist. Cultural psychologists and anthropologists need expansion on macro meanings for self-identity and self-esteem. Part of the end goal is to create a broader interest in how self-identity and esteem is especially fragile and endangered for groups when fear, anxiety and inferiority influence beauty practices.

Research Plan and Methods
This research will be conducted in two parts; the first setting being in the southern region of Sierra Leone amongst the Mende population. The second part of the study will take place in northern Namibia, in the capital city of Odangwa.
Sample and Recruitment
            100 women from both regions will be asked to participate through snow-ball sampling. Age minimum will be based on cultural standards of adulthood.
            An in-depth interview using a 50-item cultural self-identity scale (CSIS) will be used to collect the data. This likert scale modeled similarly after the Rosenberg self-esteem scale (RSES) will have a five point system measuring from strongly agree to strongly disagree. A follow up interview will take place as well with open-ended questions allowing the women to express more freely their thoughts or ideas. During the preliminary cultural immersion phase of both  regions, language study and culture phenomenon will be deeply studied in order to adapt the cultural self-identity scale and its questions to be as accurate and relevant as possible.
            Self-esteem, self-identity and hair beauty will be the focus of this interview. Sample questions will include:
How important is your hair?
Do you like your hair?
How did you learn to care for your hair?
How important is hair for women?
Do you know the history of your hair techniques?
How does your hair make you feel?
            Women in both regions will have one of four research team members facilitate the interview. The primary investigator and one fully trained research assistant will conduct all follow up interviews to insure integrity of the questions asked as well as tone and delivery. All sessions of interviews and follow ups will be recorded. Both the scaled interview and follow up interview should take 30 minutes each.
            This cross-sectional study will produce results that will be adjusted for proper analysis. Results found will be qualitative data that will be transposed into quantitative data. The data collected from the likert scale results will be analyzed using ANOVA method. After numbers have been computed, they will be tested again for significance.
Research Hypothesis
            Mende Women have higher self-esteem and self-identity relating to their hair than Namibian women due to the lesser effect of colonization.
            At least six months of cultural immersion will be needed to gain trust among the initiated society of the Mende people, specifically to build relationship with the women of Sande.
·         Refinement of research method – 3 months (part of 6 month cultural immersion)
·         Collection of data – 3 to 6 months
·         Analysis of data – 3 months
·         Execution of final research – 3 months
·         Dissemination of findings via publication and lecture – 6 month
            This same process will be duplicated for the research conducted in Namibia with the exception of the cultural immersion period. This can be reduced to three months. The total amount of time needed is a maximum of two years to produce a significant contribution of empirical research.
Expected Outcomes and Benefits of Study
            The benefit of this study includes an analysis of data to determine the effects of colonization on self-identity and esteem and the needed development of African psychologies (Hocoy, 1999). The psychology in acceptance of self is highly indicative of overall positive self-identity (Bornman, 1999). The more research that can be completed in this area will also fuel the need for other cultural relevant studies to be done. The expected result is that the Mende women, being from a non-colonial region will have higher self-esteem regarding their hair as opposed to Namibian women who were once under harsh colonization (Lovisa, Shigwedha, 2006).
Implications & Future Research
            This research study has the potential to contribute towards cultural psychology and anthropology. It will also serve as a step in the direction of cultural balance in the awareness of self-esteem and self-identification. Individuals within collectivist cultures often have different views of self and familial relations. This is important to understand before researching or collecting data. This area of study will also provide new research opportunities to add to this body of work. The data will also be relevant to global and local clinicians, counselors and educators.
In addition, this will give a better foundation to research conducted involving the complexities of self-esteem for African-American women. Although this is a study of African women, it is important to understand the influences of western beauty standards on all women of the African diaspora in the both their native land and in the United States. Research by Noliwe Rooks in 1996 and Kathy Russell, Midge Wilson and Ronald Hall in 1992 began to uncover the stigma and standard that was created for women of African descent in the U.S. post slavery.
In multiple blogs by authors such as Yaba Blay, Kemi Ogunniyi and Jackson Biko, the discussion of colonial mentality often surfaces. This is the idea that although someone may be in their native land, they still act and practice accordingly per the western influence that was pervasive during colonization. This adds to the need of additional research in studying the after effects of colonization. Interpretations of beauty involving skin color, hair texture and styling are the focal point often, shedding a light on the damage Western beauty standards have done.
There are more discussion as well being had about the current state of self-esteem in South African people and the concept of collaborative self-esteem versus individual self-esteem which takes center stage in the U.S. (Volpe, n.d. ; Lumumba, 2014). There is much work to be done to help foster positive identities and a lot can be accomplished if self-esteem issues are addressed (Michel-Ange, 2014).
Ethical Issues
            This study is intended to collect valuable data as it concerns the advancement of African and cultural psychologies. All appropriate privacy and patient confidentiality procedures will be followed to insure integrity. Written consent will obtained by all participants in the study. Local government approval will be applied for before research begins and the Institutional Review Board from my home institution will provide approval for this study as well.
Limitations of Study
            Limitation of this study will include using a new self-esteem scale that has not been tested before. We also face the limitation of missing cross-cultural references that may go unnoticed due to our unfamiliarity of the culture. Adaption of the measures will be done to the best of our ability but still may be flawed. Given these limitations of measure, findings of the research will be analyzed and disseminated accordingly.


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AA4900 Final: The Future of African-Americans in Film

African-Americans in film have had a long and tumultuous journey over the last several decades. We have slowly but surely watched the addition of more and more Black characters into mainstream film. We also have seen more Black directors, screenwriters and producers gain prominence and accolades. But where there has been the most lack in my opinion is the genuine storytelling of the African-American or Black experience. Black actors have long been subjected to side kick roles, on screen to merely support White actors. The other harsh reality is that anytime a movie has had a more than 80% Black cast it is simply passed off on the public as another “Black” film. Movie goers that are non-Black don’t feel as compelled to entertain these stories as much as they are seen as a niche category without depth or variety.

I would like to see Black screenwriter and filmmakers sit long and hard to strategize storylines that have a deep human element and just happen to have a Black cast. The Best Man is a good example of this type of film. The storyline follows a group of friends post-college through marriage, betrayal and forgiveness. This is not a Black story by rather a universal story. While it is fine to create so-called “relatable Black” films, Black directors must expand their horizon to assess that not all Black people come from the south, are from lower socio-economic backgrounds, are sexually abused and raised with violence.

I want to see storylines about middle-class and upper-class Black families, those that have pursued education, travel and have something to pass down to their children. I want to see myself on film for once. A young Black girl from a small conservative town who is pursuing her dream of entrepreneurship. Who isn’t a single mom struggling (while this story is important), who has options in life and doesn’t play by society’s cliché rules for Black women. This story – although simple and seemingly unexciting to some, is something you don’t see on screen. Why must all Black women in film be beaten, betrayed or bitter and worn from their past? Why must every Black male be either slick-talking, a dead-beat, a beater, a cheat or a career criminal? These are the questions that Black filmmakers must answer. While they may be telling some of our stories, they are not telling every Black person’s story.

I want to see actors and actresses advocate for such variety. I see them complain about the lack of depth and representation of roles but then jump at the chance to play an obnoxiously stereotyped role in a Tyler Perry film. I can appreciate they need to work like any other person, but actresses like Angela Bassett who refused to lower herself and play the role Halle Berry played in Monster’s Ball has still found success and consistent work. As a creative professional and freelancer, I can relate to desperate times for work, however I have always maintained my integrity as a designer, never lending my skillset and talent to organizations, companies and individuals that conflicted with what I stand for.

Black production companies need to be established as well as distribution and marketing. We need to find our own way. Black audiences need to support the work that speaks to us. Putting our money where our mouth is will force the box-office to see the power of the Black dollar and that films with Black actors are worth being made and invested in.

Heavy hitters such as Oprah Winfrey and Bob Johnson would be smart to back such investments. More partnerships need to be made forging the collaborations of actors, directors, producers, sponsors, endorsers, and businesses.

While we need to tell all of our stories, we also need to go outside of ourselves and tap into the fantasy-type genres that bring in universal attention. Science fiction being one of my favorite genres is rarely scene led by Black actors. These are the films where we are lucky to be a side-kick and usually don’t make it to the end of the film. Will Smith is one of the very few (maybe one of two) that has carried large, Sci-fi blockbuster hits such as the Men in Black trilogy, Independence Day and most recently, After Earth. He is not only actor that can carry a movie in this category. But often times Hollywood will select a handful of Black actors to propel forward, leaving the majority behind to pick over meager roles.

We also have to embrace the telling of our past history and legacy in this country without shame or controversy. The Jewish community takes advantage of every opportunity to tell the story of the holocaust. They make sure that no one forgets their story or trial and triumph. Somewhere along the way, Black people have been convinced that in order to progress, we need to sweep our history under the rug. Our history needs to be shared to remind this nation how far we have truly come. In some ways art does imitate life; so what does it mean when we won’t take the authority of our own history, struggle and victory? I would love to see films focusing on the intricate details of the transatlantic slave trade as well as the injustice we suffered some 100 years afterwards. Film is a unique medium in which we have the ability to speak to the world. We can eradicate certain misconceptions and educate others about the fullness and complexity of the African-American experience. We also hold the power to show why we are worth investing in and that we play a vital role in area of filmmaking.

The Letter: Reflections of African-American in Film, 1910-1950

Dear Friend,
As you know, film often serves as an important medium in reflecting the currents strides, conflicts and victories of any given society or culture. If art does in fact imitate life, then we must ask ourselves, whose life or story is it imitating?
As with most art, we rely heavily on the interpretations of artistic minds to tell various cultural stories and we give permission to the creative license of embellishment. But when does art cross the line of creative embellishment and turn into a vehicle of bias persuasion used to denigrate and repress an entire race of people? We must analyze the amount of power and yield we give to film makers and their art. Perhaps, we have to restructure our thinking to see art as art and not as real life affirmation or pardon for certain ill behavior and or treatment of others. But if we in fact choose to take art more seriously, as an artistic and slightly embellished version of the truth, we must ensure everyone, racially and culturally has a chance and equal opportunity to tell their version of the truth. Without this proportion, a narrative from the dominantly powered group is then passed along and embedded as the only truth. From that comes the oblivious acceptance of something that could very well be a constructed lie.
The journey of film in the United States is a long and complicated one that does in fact parallel with the struggles the nation has had as well. The idea of America in film before the 1950’s showed the dominant force and superiority of Whites much like society at that time. Blacks were still barely seen on screen and when they were, secondary and exploitative roles were often their only options.
Even in post slavery times, the attitudes of White superiority remained the same and White film makers were determined to showcase their point of view. With limited options, African Americans found themselves either accepting demeaning character roles or continue to deal with the hardships and lack of variety in everyday life.
In Bogle’s Bright Boulevards, Bold Dreams, he describes the unique way in which Black cinema was born. Although African Americans and Black Spaniards had migrated freely to Los Angeles in the early 1700’s, when the film industry took off, people of color were not part of the original rise to fame. When Blacks finally did have an opportunity to enter, they were hard pressed to find decent roles and representation. 
During the first half of the twentieth century, the United States is presented through film as the promised land with Blacks sprinkled in as inferior and even incompetent archetypes whose sole purpose is to amuse or serve their White superiors. These inferior roles can be seen in the mammy or maid roles given to Black women during the 20's and 30's. 
The U.S. presented on film the same scenario it was playing out in society. Black people weren't given the same opportunities to shine and if they did, the same pay, acknowledgment and recognition was not given.
African Americans faced despair as they continued to lose traction in the developing West and were targeted in Hollywood to always serve as the underdog. To make matters worse, certain Black actors such as Stepin Fetch went on the cinematic screen underlining and reinforcing every stereotype about Black people, in particular, about Black men. Bumbling, foolish and illiterate antics won White crowds over but continued to diminish the idea of African Americans as equals. Even those Black actors whom realized off screen the detriment to which they were contributing were swayed by money, success and notoriety to continue to perpetuate White biased ideals on screen.
Bogle discusses in detail that during this era, several Black actors and actresses struggled and faced harsh conditions off screen. Barely getting by, it was not unusual for them to accept demeaning parts or unfair pay as it may have been the difference between going hungry and being able to feed their children.
As we look closely at the archetypes among actors especially women, we can see the birth of cliché and stereotyped roles. Common roles we still seem to cast and can’t move beyond today.
Beyond common roles, there are two common narratives seen through film as well. The two flowing stories through film are that of the superior and the story of the people who refused to be oppressed.
The controversial film, Birth of a Nation sparked tons of reaction and notoriety. It is essentially the story of how the Ku Klax Klan is born and their diligent efforts to keep America pure and civil. African Americans are painted to be hyper-sexual, deviant characters prone to violence and unable to maintain civility.
Films like these continued to perpetuate the stereotypes imagined during slavery. African American men were constantly depicted as lazy, clowning individuals with no clear direction or mind of their own. African American women were either cast in the large, overweight mammy or maid role that was subservient to White women or they were over sexualized vixens willing to steal another woman's husband or participate in promiscuous behavior.
As with any part of culture, when messages are continually delivered without question or qualm, no matter how far from the truth, they begin to be accepting as truth. African Americans, although post slavery were imagined on screen as a sub group of humanity destined to always be inferior. Film and entertainment, being such an influential medium reaffirmed the ignorant mentalities that fueled the mistreatment of Blacks in everyday life.
In response, the emergence of race films takes place. Starring all Black casts as well as being written, produced and directed by Blacks. These stories would tell our truth without the bias of Whites. They would highlight our ingenuity, range of talent and our humanity. These films were targeted at all Black audiences and showcased some of our brightest talent.
It was an opportunity as well to be a small voice in Hollywood proving that films created by African Americans and starring them could sell and did have a market. Unfortunately, most of these films did not survive this era and there are few to look back on for historical reference.
Films such as Nothing But a Man, that showcased Black love and complexities of social and economic classes that were part of Black society as much as they were in White society. Cabin in the sky also displayed Blacks as dealing with the same issues any anyone else. It's a classic good versus evil storyline.
During this era, Blacks worked tirelessly to be seen, heard and recognized for their talent. For some, those dreams would come to life during the race film era. For others not as lucky, such as Dorothy Dandrige, discouragement and disappointment set in as race films tapered off in the early 1950's.
As for myself, I am not sure if I would have survived Black Hollywood in its infancy. My ideologies prevent me from living a life in which I have to conform and take what is given. But then again, I have been afforded opportunities in my life that would have been completely out of reach for someone in that era. I too may have resolved that a better living would be to take a role that may be considered demeaning in order to get screen time and enjoy the art form of acting if that were my passion.
I could definitely see myself as someone flourishing behind the scenes during the race film era. I am very passionate about writing and creating a successful screenplay for Black actors would have definitely been my idea of success during that time.
If we look at film prior to the 1950’s as a foundation for what is today, we can see both the great advancements it has yielded as well as the stunted growth it still experiences in certain areas. It brings to mind more questions about race, responsibility and image. Who is responsible for how Blacks are presented in film? Are we to tell our truth and not allow anyone else to tell our story? Can White filmmakers create a story about Black experience and truly conveys authenticity? Is it possible for an artist to sacrifice their bias beliefs in lieu of telling a story that needs to be heard?
These are the conversations that need to be continued as well as examined. With that in mind, we should strive for equal opportunities in film expression for everyone.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Success and Outcomes of First Generation College Students

The research topic discussed is the success of first generation college students. The target population is first generation-college students. This article reviews three studies conducted about the overall preparedness and support systems for first-generation college students. The research analyzed is specifically in the areas of financial literacy, parental support, correlated stress factors and opportunities of self-disclosure or opportunities of sharing experiences. First-generation college students do not have readily available a familial support system that can empathize with their transition. They generally also lack the same preparation as continuing generation students, such as financial literacy which can lead to potential issues with staying on track and college completion. Due to the lack of parental support, first generation college students often have fewer social outlets to share experiences allowing them to decompress during the often stressful transition. There are many factors that contribute to the success of a college student. First time college students have unique and complex obstacles. This critique will analyze research conducted to explore the journey of first-generation college students and provide insight on how future research can be improved.

The Success and Outcomes of First Generation College Students
The topic of this summary is the success of first generation college students. The target group of this summary is first generation college students. The success of college students is often researched and investigated so that a plan of action can be put into place for better outcomes. Within the college student population there are certain groups that are more at risk for stress and obstacles, therefore more predisposed to lower grades, higher drop-out rates, and degree non-completion. One of these marginalized groups is first-generation college students. These students are the first within their families to go to college. To accurately assess what programs and administration should be implemented, it is important to understand how the college experience of a first-generation college student is different and more complex than a continuing generation student. It is imperative that the success of the first-generation college student is researched, detailed and improved if possible. The success of continuing generations of college students beyond this initial group greatly depends on it. A critical analysis of three published articles on the success of first-generation college students will be discussed.
Summary of the Literature
Main Findings
The overall findings of research completed on financial literacy, parental support, stress factors and self-disclosure is that first-generation college students do not have equal preparation or support systems and therefore unequal opportunities for college success (Eitel & Martin, 2009). The financial literacy study showed that while it was only a small contributing factor to student persistence and graduation outcomes, it is one of many areas that first-generation college students lack in preparation for college. This study also clearly showed that further marginalized within the first generation population were students of color whom were younger in age and were freshman or sophomore in school status. The majority of students whom did well on the financial literacy assessment were White students at junior or senior school status. 16% of the variance in scoring was explained by ethnicity and 19% of the variance was explained by school classification.
(Sy, Fong, Boehme, & Alpert, 2011-2012) Research findings of the effects of parental support and correlated stress found that first-generation college students had lower levels of parental support compared to continuing generation students. The stress of transitioning into college was found to be equal among both first-generation and continuing education college students, however parental support as a predictor of this stress was only found in first-generation college students.
Additionally, research has been conducted to find the level of self-disclosure within first- generation college students among their families, friends, peers and school professionals (Barry, Hudley, Kelly & Cho, 2009). Self-disclosure is described as the student’s ability and opportunity to confide about their personal experiences in college to their support system. It was hypothesized that first-generation college students had less outlets to discuss their experiences and therefore had higher levels of stress. They do in fact have fewer opportunities of self-disclosure but the effect size is small. This was found not to be a true indicator of stress levels.

One consistent limitation throughout these studies is the lack of equal race and gender representation for the participants of the studies. Without equal representation, the findings of the research cannot be applied to a broader audience of students. Race often culturally effects the way a person views money such as, individualistic versus collective family values. Gender must be equally assessed as well to conclude the results as accurate for both men and women. Also, within the folds of first generation student success is the added disadvantage of socio-economics which none of the research accounted for.
In the financial literacy study, it is not taken into account that culturally, financial literacy or the understanding of money is completely different depending on cultural background and socio-economics. The value of money and what is considered financially literate can take on different meanings in individualistic family norms versus collective family norms. The researchers admitted to having no real standard measure of financial literacy but even if there was, that measure would need to consider additional variables including culture, those whom live at home, those that live independently and if they have a family of their own.
A significant limitation within the study on parental support and the correlation to stress is the over simplified approach to measuring parental support or lack thereof and stress. Students that are first-generation college attendees are clearly at a disadvantage when it comes to parental and familial support as they are the first to experience this transition. No one in their immediate family would be able to relate or empathize with their transition. However, it is overlooked that depending on a student’s preparation, temperament for change and attitude this may or may not directly affect their stress levels. A lot of students who choose to embark on this experience find alternative support systems within friends, school administration or counselors. For a better assessment, stress levels should have been measured prior to the transition; perhaps the junior or senior year of high school and then again measured during the transition to college. This same assessment should have been completed for continuing generation students. Completing a within subject research design would have provided much more accurate findings.
Within all three studies, the general measures used for financial literacy, parental support and self-disclosure are not standardized or thorough enough to fully prove or support the hypothesized ideas. When measuring abstract ideas such as success and stress, certain bench marks should be firmly established in the beginning. These bench marks or levels of measurement should be as broad and inclusive as possible. Defining success or stress that caters to only one group of people will not work to accurately measure the results of others that do not fall within that particular group.
Future Direction
Future research to be completed should focus on the differences of financial literacy within cultural context. Separate studies should be designed to measure financial literacy within the context of individualistic versus collective family values. Those results can then be more appropriately applied to a larger audience. Gender and race also need to be treated as important variables. Separate studies may not be necessary but men, women and ethnic varieties should be represented equally in each experimental design.
To properly measure the levels of stress in any student, there must be measures of stress levels before and after the predicted stressful event such as college transition. This will more accurately assess the level of stress the event is causing. Students should be monitored by their senior year in high school and measured for stress levels and parental support. This same data should be collected after the transition of college for both first-generation and continuing generation college students. Parents should also be interviewed separately for their level of support provided and this data can be compared to the student self reporting.
In conclusion there were many limitations found within these studies that address the experience and success of first-generation college students. Equal representation of gender and race proved to be an issue but can solved with more attention to participants. The measure of financial literacy, student success and parental support all have to be clearly defined to obtain accurate results. Directions of future research should include more attention to the detailed status, background, and culture of the participants included in the studies. With more accurate findings in this area of research, more improvements can be made to the first-generation college experience. Hopefully this will serve as an incentive for the success of continuing generations.

Eitel, S. J., & Martin, J. (2009). First-generation female college students' financial literacy : Real and perceived barriers to degree completion. College Student Journal (43)2, 616-630. Retrieved from female-college-students-financial-literacy-real-perceived-barriers-degree-completion

Sy, S. R., Fong, K., Carter, R., Boehme, J., & Alpert, A. (2011-2012). Parent support and stress among first-generation and continuing-generation female students during the transition to
college. J College Student Retention (13)3, 383-398. doi: 10.2190/CS.13.3.g

Barry, L. M., Cho, S., Hudley, C., Kelly, M. (2009). Differences in self-reported disclosure of college experiences by first generation college student status. Adolescence (44)173, 56- 68.