From Safe Spaces to Sacred Spaces: Chicanx/Latinx After-School Youth Development and Transformational Resistance

  • Johnny Ramirez
Keywords: chicane/latinx youth, safe spaces, sacred spaces, after-school programs, positive youth development outcomes


This ethnographic case study examines how a social justice-based after-school (AS) youth leadership development program became a space for youth participants to develop a critique of social oppression and motivation for social justice action. Research demonstrates that youth development programs and models that cultivate agency among Youth of Color directly contribute to Positive Youth Developmental (PYD) outcomes (Larson, 2006), and are an effective intervention strategy for youth at high risk of school pushout. However, few studies specifically examine the factors that prompt engaged Chicanx-Latinx AS youth participants to develop a resistance behavior that reflects a critique of social oppression and motivation for social justice—Transformational Resistance (Solórzano & Bernal, 2001). In this article, I explain how youth participants explicitly cited how creating “safe spaces” and chosen-familial bonds through femtoring/mentoring relationships cultivated transformational resistance outcomes. I conclude by discussing how the Black Panther Mentorship Program (BPMP), a social justice-based AS youth program, transcended the traditional notions of safe spaces and transformed into a sacred space because it gave youth participants holistic forms of unconditional acceptance, acknowledgment, and interconnectedness. As a result, BPMP youth’s connection to sacred spaces enabled them to overcome personal and educational barriers.