Research Projects

Stress and Street Life:

Black Women, Urban Inequality, and Coping in a Small Violent City (2017 - Present)

Research Site: Wilmington, Delaware

This is a mixed-method study that examines how direct and vicarious victimization shape the bereavement, coping strategies and quality of life outcomes of low-income, street-identified Black women and girls ages 16 to 54 in two small, high-crime neighborhoods in Wilmington, Delaware. “Street life” or a “street identity” are phenomenological concepts that refer to a set of ideologies, behaviors, and spaces in low-income communities of color that are organized by personal, social and economic survival. This study includes data from community-based surveys, in-depth interviews, ethnographic field observations, photos and images gathered from social media, and archival documents. The street-identified women and girls in my study are disproportionately homicide survivors, and have up-close and often frequent encounters with indirect firearm-related injury and death. I examine how this traumatic exposure to violence, grief, and mourning ricochets beyond the direct victim and seeps into the material lives of these women and girls. Their unique standpoint in oppressed communities is an uneven burden of loss that exposes them to violent harm while equipping them with a skillset to survive and thrive in adverse contexts.


Research Site: Wilmington, Delaware

This neighborhood-based study investigates the relationship between structural violence, health, and crime in the Northside and Westside neighborhoods in Wilmington, Delaware. This is a follow up study to the People's Report (see below). In 2014, Wilmington was nicknamed “MurderTown USA” for its elevated rates of violent crime rates, particular for shootings and homicides. This study tackles the myriad of social, psychological, and health-related conditions that increase the prevalence of firearm-related violent injury in a small city context. We trained 15 formerly-incarcerated, street-identified Black men to be Street Participatory Action Researchers. The project employed mixed methods to collect data from street-identified Black men and women, ages 16 to 44, in the form of (a) 728 surveys; (b) 30 individual interviews; (c) 4 group interviews; (d) 369 blood pressure tests; and (e) extensive ethnographic field observations. The project received over $150,000 in funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Christiana Care Health System, one of the largest health care providers in the mid-Atlantic region, and the University of Delaware.

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Research Site: Baltimore, Maryland

This study conducts a multi-method examination of the social and cultural roots of urban youth gun violence in the United States, across five cities: Baltimore, Detroit, New Orleans, New York (Brooklyn), and Wilmington. Methodologically, we employ street participatory action research (Street PAR) and respondent-driven sampling (RDS) methods to access and interview 750 young people, ages 16-24, who are gun carriers or are at high risk for gun violence across the five sites. Our primary research questions are: 1) What motivates young people’s acquisition and use of guns?; 2) What are the social and
structural factors that create or impact gun culture?; and 3) What are the individual and community characteristics that could build resilience and facilitate desistance from gun use?

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Community Violence Exposure (CVE) and Health-Related Quality of Life (2019 – Present)

This public health study explores the relationship between Community Violence Exposure (CVE) and self-rated health measures in a single neighborhood cohort affected by chronic firearm violence. We use Latent Class Analysis (LCA) and qualitative focus groups to measure how latent classes (identifiable groups of individuals) are categorized by various exposure to community violence (e.g. shooting, knifing, fighting, or chased by gang) and health-related outcomes.

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The first-wave of the WSPAR project entitled the “People's Report," examined the empirical link between structural opportunity and physical violence in the Southbridge and Eastside neighborhoods of Wilmington, Delaware. This pilot study trained 15 community residents—all of whom were Black-American, low-income, and formally involved with the streets and/or criminal justice system—to be Street Participatory Action Researchers (PAR). Data were collected from mostly street-identified Black men and women, ages 18-35, in the following forms: (a) 520 community surveys; (b) 24 individual interviews; (c) 4 dual interviews; (d) 4 group interviews; and (e) extensive field observations. The project received $200,000 in funding from the First State Community Action/American Recovery Reinvestment Act. In addition, the WSPAR also produced a research and community-based documentary based on study findings. View the project website here.