Listen to Chris A. Barcelos discuss her book, “Distributing Condoms and Hope: The Racialized Politics of Youth Sexual Health”. Discover her inspiration for writing the book,
Updated Date: Jan 27, 2022
Publish Date: Aug 30, 2021
chris Welcome to the show. Thank you for having me Rachel. Well, it's a pleasure. I really enjoyed your book and learned a lot from it, but I wonder first with you, just tell us something about your own background and also what got you interested in studying teen pregnancy and youth sexual health. Sure. So that story has two pathways. The first is that when I was in graduate school, the first time around, I was working on a masters in public policy and it was working in this community that I in the book called Miller Sutton um in a variety of community based public health organizations. And so I was exposed to um a lot of the ways that politics around race and gender and class and sexuality were playing out in these organizations and in the work that we did um in these communities and and also noticing that there was a lot of power relationships that weren't talked about, right? So uh there was a phenomenon where there were a lot of people from outside of this community who came to work in that community in public health and didn't share the same experiences of marginalisation and oppression than the folks that we served. And we also uh I noticed the way that people talked about the people that we served as, you know, there was something wrong with them or they weren't very intelligent or just ways that really discounted the ways that racism, Classism, et cetera impact people's ability to be healthy. So, I was noticing these power relationships and kind of, you know, for lack of a better term, feeling really picky about it. And I had this moment that I talked about in the book where I was sitting in my cubicle and I was writing a grant, I don't even remember what it was about. And I just thought if I had to use the same sentence I used over and over again, which was, you know, Latinos in this community are disproportionately overweight and obese because of quote latino cultural food practices like this, reducing the fact that people don't have access to safe places to exercise or to healthy foods, to their individual behaviors, their cultural practices. And I just thought if I have to say this really reductive racist thing, one more time, I'm just going to totally lose, just lose it. Um, and so that was part of what inspired me to go back to school and to work on a PhD in community health. Um, so I have been working in this community in Millerton. Um, and as part of my PhD program, I also became involved with uh, organization in the book. I called the townhouse, which is a school for pregnant and parenting young women that really focuses on uh, building up pregnant and parenting parents so that they can be successful in the world as whole human beings. And it's unique because a lot of educational and social service programs for young parents are really again focused on remediating them or making them good workers or assuming that they're bad parents and that needs to be corrected. So this program focused on the humanities and the arts along with, you know, um typical social service stuff like help helping young people get on Medicaid or find daycare or that kind of thing. So is this really unique and special place? And I was drawn to that in particular because I was also 18 parent and had a very unusual path through life itself, but also through academia and my and my professional life too. Right? So I got pregnant as a teenager and um, you know, it was like, your life is over, you've ruined your life, you're going to be a bad parent, your drain on society, etcetera. And that was the thing that as a young person that politicised me, it was when I started reading about feminism and racial politics and capitalism and all of this other stuff. And that, was that what that experience was, what, you know what I mean to go to college and then eventually to graduate school. And then this was a book that began as many academic books do as a dissertation and I really didn't want to continue to research and talk about teen pregnancy and parenting. Like I had lived it. I had written about it in research and done a lot of activists work around it and I was like, I just need to do something else, right? I need to think about and talk about something else. And because I had worked in this community for a long time and had been doing some some work with the townhouse, that it just kind of all fell into place and the stars aligned in a way that this was the work I was doing for my research and then eventually became this book. And so, um, even though it was, you know, I was so sick of thinking about it at the time, I realized now, many years later that this work is really important, and it also has a lot of lessons to teach us for the way that we do community based public health. And surprisingly, actually, I think a lot of lessons for, so last year and a half in the world when we've been talking about and thinking about public health in ways that many people never did before.