Engaging the Louisville House Ball Community through PhotoVoice

image of Emma Sterrett-Hong, Director of the CFT program at UofL Kent School of Social Work.

Author Chimamanda Adichie has famously urged people to avoid the “danger of a single story,” where literature, media, and popular lore paints marginalized cultural groups as only one thing, usually highlighting the negative (suffering and struggle) over the positive (resilience and innovation).

In the same spirit, and as LGBTQ History and Latinx Heritage months hit full swing, Dr. Emma Sterrett-Hong is moving forward on a project to amplify the voices of young gay and bi-sexual men of color and transgender women of color through a 4-week Photovoice project. In partnership with the Louisville House Ball community, about 12-15 participants will take pictures of their surroundings and lives and discuss what these images mean to them. Later, these images will become exhibitions at local community centers or art galleries.

Though most literature on these populations emphasizes the struggles they face—namely, HIV and financial difficulties—Sterrett-Hong wants to paint a fuller picture of the complex lives of young Black and Latinx men and of transgender women’s understandings of the strengths of their community.  This can be invaluable in determining needs/interventions to support these communities, as they draw on members'—not researchers'—perspectives.

“This particular community is an embodiment of resilience and strength, and Louisville House Ball is a venue and system through which we can learn more about the individual community members and what they see as the various strengths of their community, and then also the specific needs that individual members have,” she said.

The team consists of four faculty members (Sterrett-Hong, Dr. Kaila Story, Dr. Ryan Combs, and Dr. Maurice Gattis), a graduate research assistant (Doylas Herold from counseling and psychology), and community consultants from Louisville House Ball (Jaison Gardner and Arsenio Bell). Combs and Gattis also participate in another Consortium-funded project alongside Dr. Amber Pendleton that seeks to inform the development of a health communications campaign to improve the health of LGBTQ adolescents in Louisville, in partnership with the JCPS LGBTQ Student Supports Subcommittee.

Sterrett-Hong has participated in National Institutes of Health-funded projects about HIV prevention/intervention with these communities in the past, so she’s excited to take a more community-informed approach in this project.

“There’s a lack of information about the broad-multifaceted, complex lives of young gay and bisexual men of color and transgender women of color,” she said. “I’m going in looking to view this issue from the community perspective.”

Check back in to the Consortium’s event calendar at louisville.edu/socialjustice for updates on this project and information about gallery showings.