Unveiling Voices: Boston Students' Data Activism Journey with Community Catalysts

R. Walker, S. Brady, O. Dias, A. Castillo, K. Asfaw, E. Johnson, M. Taylor, and C. Breazeal , "Unveiling Voices: Boston Students' Data Activism Journey with Community Catalysts," in Black Issues in Computing Education Symposium 2024, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, 2024


A noticeable gap exists in the availability of computing curricula tailored to empower African American students to apply their computing skills for the betterment of their communities. This research applies "liberatory computing'' as a way to empower African American students in addressing embedded racism through computing. An exemplar of this liberatory computing approach is our curriculum on data activism, which uses data science to confront and mitigate systemic oppression. The study engaged 24 high school students of African American descent, who partnered with community organizations in the Greater Boston area for a range of data activism initiatives. These projects encompassed data analysis, geospatial analysis, qualitative analysis, surveys, interviews, artistic expression, and the incorporation of community perspectives. The organizers intend to use the students' projects for advocacy purposes, such as advocating for policies addressing flooding in African American and low-income Boston communities using data visualizations. The student surveys revealed heightened awareness of data science's role in combating racism and enhanced proficiency in promoting racial justice. Interviews with the students revealed that mitigating systemic oppression through their data activism projects with community organizers was a pivotal aspect that motivated them to persist in integrating data activism into their future pursuits. The implications of this research demonstrate how African American students can be empowered to utilize data science in order to catalyze societal transformation. This is achieved by fostering opportunities for them to apply their data science skills to tangible real-life issues through collaboration with community organizations addressing systemic challenges. 

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