Emerging Scholar Spotlight: Kendall Johnson

Kendall G. Johnson is a rising second year Social Work doctoral student at Boston University in Boston, Massachusetts. Her research seeks to understand the effects of trauma and community violence, especially homicide, on the Black families’ and communities’ mental health, as well as the supports they utilize in response to traumatic loss and violent events. Individual, family, community and systemic factors contribute to higher homicide rates in Black communities and affect the bereavement process that Black families and communities experience after a homicide. Ensuring that communities have adequate support means not only investigating the accessibility and availability of mental health services, but also determining whether the services are culturally sensitive and trauma focused. She hopes that her research will shed further light on this topic and help improve outcomes for Black adolescents exposed to violence. Her current research funded by the Boston University School of Social Work PhD Non-Stipend Funding mini grant, is titled Enough is Enough: The experience of Black Homicide Survivors and the impact of homicide in the Boston area. This qualitative study will examine the experience of Black homicide survivors in the Boston area and the impact that homicide deaths have on institutions that are directly involved with the aftermath of the death. The central research questions are: What is the experience of Black homicide survivors in the Boston area? and How can this knowledge inform city efforts to decrease violence amongst adolescents of color in Boston?

Kendall is also working on a few research projects this summer. The first is funded by the Boston University Initiative on Cities whose mission is to research, promote, and advance the adaptive urban leadership strategies and policies necessary to support cities as dynamic centers of inclusive economic growth and sustainable development in the 21st century. The project is titled Informing Municipal Policies & Identifying Best Practices to Support Women Survivors of Homicide and is done in conjunction with Assistant Professor Dr. Linda Sprague-Martinez, also in the Social Work Department at BU. Kendall is conducting an in-depth analysis of the Women Survivors of Homicide Movement’s (WSOHM) change strategy and tactics, and how privilege and power impact the manner in which WSOHM seeks to create change for women of color who have lost a loved one to homicide. The second project she is working on is titled Engaging Local Youth to Create a Culture of Health: Building a Community-Based Culture of Health Accelerator. The goal of this project is to engage, mentor and support local youth to conceptualize, organize, and implement culture of health initiatives in our shared community. Her role on this project is to explore parent perceptions of the program as well as parent perceptions of barriers to health and assist with parent engagement. She will provide content expertise for the curriculum as it relates to trauma and the impact of community violence on youth well being.

As a Social Work Master’s Student at the University of Michigan, Kendall became interested in the effect of community violence on black adolescents in urban areas through her field placement work at the Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office in Detroit, MI. There she was a part of a pilot Social Work Bereavement Team that provided support and resources for families and friends who lost a loved one to homicide. Through her independent research titled Case Analysis at the Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office: A Homicide Epidemic, she found that over 85% of homicide victims in Detroit and surrounding areas were African-American males under the age of 35. She was able to present her findings to staff at the medical examiner’s office and the pathology department at the University of Michigan Health System.

Kendall is mentored by Dr. Judith C. Scott (MSW, MPP, PhD) an Assistant Professor in the Social Work Department at Boston University. Judith’s research focuses on childhood and adolescent trauma related to physical maltreatment and racial discrimination experiences.

In her spare time, Kendall enjoys competing in beauty pageants. She successfully obtained the title of Miss Universal World 2017, and has spent the past year and a half promoting her platform, Young Women Walking in Purpose. This platform focuses on empowering young women of color from disadvantaged backgrounds to pursue their dreams, reach their fullest potential, and have access to mentors who can support them in their communities.

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