Date of Award

Fall 12-2023

Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Devin G. Atallah

Second Advisor

Abbey Eisenhower

Third Advisor

Jesica Fernández


While many would say otherwise, the current system is not a broken one (Kaba, 2021). The colonial systems, frameworks, and theories we have in place are working exactly how they are supposed to: in favor of and in tandem with systems that seek to oppress marginalized communities. This realization calls for a shift, including shifts in research in ways that builds from below (Atallah & Dutta, 2021; Fernández, 2018; Tang-Yan, 2022). The current study aims to explicitly interrogate coloniality and colonial violence in a United States socio historical context, exploring youth of color development in conditions of adversity, looking at the ways that coloniality and colonial violence impact youth of color. The current literature in psychological sciences and related disciplines on the impact of centuries of colonial violence and ongoing coloniality and youth resistance and resilience often take a “whitestream” (Bell, 2018) – Eurocentric – approach. In this paper, this “whitestream” literature on youth development and resilience is reviewed before shifting to introduce frameworks on decolonial resistance and healing justice that will be engaged in the current study. This study aims to enact a decolonial turn both theoretically and methodologically. Decolonial theory and methods are linked to decolonial resistance movements and frontliners contesting coloniality in everyday lives (Atallah & Dutta, 2021). Youth-focused grassroots organizations can play pivotal roles in cultivating decolonial resistance processes, intergenerational resilience, and healing justice with youth of color who contest structural violence associated with coloniality and interrelated systems of oppression (e.g. Atallah, 2017; Burgess, Prescod, Bryan, & Chatters, 2021). The City School (TCS), located in Boston, Massachusetts, is a grassroots organization that provides youth-focused programming in the form of their Summer Leadership Program (SLP) for young people between fourteen and nineteen years of age. SLP’s curriculum engages leadership development pedagogies, healing justice practices, community building exercises, and critical education to support youth resistance and resilience journeys. This study aimed to explore and evaluate the situations in which TCS staff create conditions of healing justice in support of youth of color decolonial resistance and resilience journeys during the SLP. With the support of TCS leadership, semi-structured, individual interviews were completed with a total of 8 (N = 8) protagonists who were former or current staff members and youth members of TCS SLP. Utilizing situational analysis (Clarke, Friese, and Washburn, 2018), a qualitative method developed as an extension of grounded theory (Creswell, 2007), the findings were organized in a representation entitled The City School Fern of Collective Care & Decolonial Love: Making healing Imaginable for Young People. These findings explain the processes by which SLP staff and structures support the youths’ healing journeys in terms of 4 major themes: prioritizing youths’ feelings and vulnerabilities (facilitating healing at an individualized pace); uplifting youth’s value & humanity; practices of accompaniment, interdependence, and joy; radical love & (re)creating community and spaces of belonging. The study findings shed light on the complex multifaceted processes of healing- and justice-promoting youth-focused community practice. Findings contribute to abolitionist futures with the goal of visioning the creation of new ways of being, relating, and knowing. Results may be relevant to understanding the potential of grassroots, youth focused, organizations like The City School in fostering decolonial love and healing among youth of color. Results may also be relevant to education and curriculum development during a time where the integration of youth centered humanizing inclusive curricula are under threat. Understanding and applying these insights can have implications for addressing the impacts of coloniality, colonial violence, and intersecting systems of oppression on marginalized communities, particularly youth of color.


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Psychology Commons