Our Voices Will Be Heard: COIP Virtual Conference
In academia, scholarship places an emphasis on the negative statistics when discussing children of incarcerated parents (COIP). The existing literature indicates adverse childhood experiences and strained parent-child relationships result in delinquency for this vulnerable population. However, the national research study, Success and Resilience Among Children of Incarcerated Parents, sought to emphasize the accomplishments, triumphs, and resilient characteristics within each participant.
As a groundbreaking researcher, Dr. Bahiyyah Muhammad, is well known for “Flipping the Script” and producing research “hot off the press” through innovative research practices centering children of incarcerated parents. Though statistics indicate one in three children who experience parental incarceration will be involved in the criminal justice system, Dr. Muhammad was determined to give voice to those who live crime-free. As entrepreneurs, community leading, social justice activists, authors, doctors and a host of other professions, children of incarcerated parents are trailblazers. By bringing their faces and experiences to the forefront it was our goal to determine the pathways which led to their success in the hopes of educating both researchers and the community.
To present the preliminary research findings an in person conference held on Howard University’s campus was initially scheduled. However, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic it was canceled, nevertheless, the show had to go on as it was imperative to show the urgency for a paradigm shift when researching this hidden population. Therefore, the Inaugural Children of Incarcerated Parents: Resilience, Success, & Triumph Digital Conference was created as a means to humanize the research participants by allowing them to share their narratives in their own words.
Each virtual conference day had an overarching theme: Resiliency, Respect, and Responsibility. These three days exuded Black excellence across the nation through the curation of digital panel discussions, keynotes, artistic performances all executed by directly impacted children of incarcerated parents. Through the creation of this research study and implementation of this digital conference we are no longer allowing the system to silence the voices that yearn to be heard. It is time to own our narrative and experiences by forcing the society to put some respect on our names.
The executive research team worked long and extremely hard to create a safe space for the research participants and public viewers to engage in a critical dialogue. Never attending an academic conference before, let alone organizing one, I had no clue what to expect. Over the course of three months, the amount of work that was put into planning every single minute of the virtual conference was overwhelmingly rewarding. From the assimilation of presenters across the nation, flawless transitions, active engagement in the chat box, and networking opportunities our execution was historically revolutionary. After each day, I personally felt inspired, enlightened, and ravening for more platforms to highlight the success stories within the Black community, especially during the current climate of social injustice. With our conference ending on Juneteenth, we gracefully paid homage to our ancestors whose sacrifice afforded us the opportunity to have this platform.
In conclusion, it is the responsibility of practitioners, policy makers, and the community to rid themselves of the deficit-based model when discussing children of incarcerated parents. If scholarship continues to oversaturate negative statistics, the pioneering children of incarcerated parents will remain hidden. We must all come together to give rise to ground-breaking research practices which forces the envision of successful, triumphant, and resilient lives amongst this population. Future researchers must keep in mind the importance of humanizing research participants as it is common to disassociate them in the academic conference process. In addition, we must ensure we intentionally pour into the community the necessary resources to promote holistic wellness, build support, awareness, resilience, opportunity, enrichment, communication skills, self-empowerment and self-confidence.
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