UHD Professor's New Book Spotlights African American Psychology
New Text Celebrates Community's Strengths, Dispels Myths
By Sheryl E. Taylor
Dr. Stacie DeFreitas’ new book, African American Psychology: A Positive Perspective, takes a deep dive into the major areas of psychological research across family, peer, and romantic relationships, education, work, ethnic-racial socialization and identity, prosocial behavior and civic engagement, and the mental and physical health of African Americans today.
"Dr. DeFreitas’ text is a major contribution to mental health in the United States. Psychological education and healing require an understanding of perspective, of what it is like to walk in someone’s shoes, and then offering pathways to happy and healthy living,” said Dr. David Branham, chair of the Department of Social Sciences. “This book takes great strides in achieving this for the African American community. It will greatly benefit all of us who live in culturally diverse communities.”
Before joining UHD in 2009, DeFreitas served as a clinical assistant professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. In addition to academia, she has also worked as a clinical psychologist with children and adolescents in the Houston Independent School District and an inpatient hospital affiliated with the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. DeFreitas earned a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Duke University.
UHD News reached out to DeFreitas, assistant chair of the Department of Social Sciences in the College of Humanities & Social Sciences, to learn more how this book contributes to a better understanding of African American experiences in psychological literature.
Q: What was your catalyst for writing this book?
I found that many of my students were selecting topics for their papers in African American psychology were really depressing. They were all focusing on problems and no one was examining strengths, resilience and positive aspects of the African American community. I believed that by having a text with a positive perspective, this would make it easier for my students to examine issues from a distinct perspective and facilitate their ability to have a more positive look at the African American community. Why not focus on learning about that?
Q: What do you want your readers to come away with after reading your book?
This question is hard to answer because there are so many take away messages. First, that African Americans are not a homogenous group. There is so much diversity. Second, that there are many strengths among African Americans that we need to focus on more in research. That way, we can use these strengths to improve outcomes. Third, history and context, particularly racism and oppression, are important considerations to keep in mind as we think about the psychology of African Americans.
Q: What are you dispelling and celebrating in this book?
I hope that I’m dispelling the belief that most African Americans live in poverty in urban environments, come from single-parent homes and perform poorly academically. These stereotypes are damaging in the U.S. and across the world. This book celebrates the diversity and complexity of African Americans by examining positive factors as well as potential negative outcomes. It is a realistic examination of African American life, not a snapshot of one small subgroup of African Americans. It shows the strengths of African Americans by showing the barriers that interfere with their success as well as the factors that enable them to overcome those barriers and excel.
Q: Do you have a favorite chapter?
My favorite chapter in the book is the one that focuses on hip-hop because I believe that particularly for the last two generations, hip-hop has been such as important part of African American culture that is now known worldwide. I love hip-hop and I know that there are many people who don't really understand it and have a negative view of hip-hop; therefore, this chapter would help them to see the value in it and how it can be used to have a positive impact on African Americans and others who identify with hip-hop culture.
In the media
The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.
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