Academic journal article Social Work

Advancing the Africentric Paradigm Shift Discourse: Building toward Evidence-Based Africentric Interventions in Social Work Practice with African Americans

Academic journal article Social Work

Advancing the Africentric Paradigm Shift Discourse: Building toward Evidence-Based Africentric Interventions in Social Work Practice with African Americans

Article excerpt

Social work practice with African Americans has evolved from a generalist perspective that tended to overlook cultural values to one that recognizes the need to incorporate cultural sensitivity and cultural competence. In particular, the strengths perspective (Hill, 1971, 1999; Saleebey, 1992), empowerment theory (DuBois & Miley, 1996; Solomon, 1976), and the person-in-environment framework (Germain, 1991) have supported the profession's move toward ethnic-centered interventions, which at minimum should emphasize the cultural competencies of the practitioners and attention to salient ethnocultural factors, such as beliefs, language, and traditions. Beyond recognizing strengths and cultural sensitivity, the Africentric paradigm is a complementary, holistic perspective that emerged as a response to traditional theoretical approaches that failed to consider the worldviews of historically oppressed populations. Africentric approaches address the totality of African Americans' worldview and existence, including their experiences of collective disenfranchisement and historical trauma as a result of slavery and persistent racial disparities. Interchangeably referred to as "Afrocentric," "Africentric," or "African-centered," interventions are based on the principle of reinstilling traditional African and African American cultural values in people of African descent. This approach stems from the premise that African Americans, for the most part, survived historically because of values such as interdependence, collectivism, transformation, and spirituality that can be traced to African principles for living (Akbar, 1984; Asante, 1988; Karenga, 1996; Nobles & Goddard, 1993). Over a decade ago, Schiele (1996,1997), Harvey (1985, 1997), and Harvey and Rauch (1997) began to develop and advocate for Africentrism as an emerging paradigm for social work practice. Indeed, a number of social work scholars have weighed in on the discourse, calling for a much-needed Africentric paradigm shift in social work practice with African Americans (Carlton-LaNey, 1999; Daly, Jennings, Beckett, & Leashore, 1995; Daniels, 2001; Freeman & Logan, 2004; Gibson & McRoy, 2004; Manning, Cornelius, & Okundaye, 2004;A. Roberts, Jackson, & Carlton-LaNey, 2000; Sherr, 2006; Swigonski, 1996; White, 2004). Harvey (2003) provided a general guide for a social work shift away from Western approaches to social work conceptualizations and practices with African Americans via an Africentric paradigm. Yet the paradigm shift has been slow in coming with respect to infusing Africentric theory and constructs into social work practice, education, and research.

Furthermore, although evidence-based practices (EBPs), those counseling and prevention programs that have the best-researched evidence, have become the "gold standard" for practice and research, there is a growing recognition that EBPs do not automatically translate intact across cultural lines (Bernal & Scharron-del-Rio, 2001; Davis, 1997). In fact, few EBPs are culturally congruent for African Americans. Conversely, Africentric interventions are culturally congruent practices specifically for African American populations and have demonstrated significant positive outcomes across several areas important to social work practice with African Americans, including increases in positive child, adolescent, and family development (Belgrave, 2002; Belgrave, Townsend, Cherry, & Cunningham, 1997; Constantine, Alleyne, & Wallace, 2006; Dixon, Schoonmaker, & Philliber, 2000; Harvey & Hill, 2004; Thomas, Townsend, & Belgrave, 2003; Washington, Johnson, Jones, & Langs, 2007). Other Africentric interventions have shown improved outcomes for incarcerated individuals and decreases in substance abuse and HIV risk behavior (Gant, 2003, 2007; Gilbert & Goddard, 2007; Harvey, 1997; Longshore & Grills, 2000; Nobles & Goddard, 1993). Although many Africentric programs show great promise, they lack the replications needed to become recognized as EBPs, and so most are considered emerging best practices--interventions that are promising but less documented and replicated than EBPs. …

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