Rights of passage programs: A culturally relevant youth development program for black youth

Harrison Pinckney, Corliss Outley, Aisha Brown, Garrett Stone, Harold Manzano-Sánchez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


One cannot have a conversation about social justice without first understanding injustice and its impact. In the case of youth development, it has been repeatedly noted that Black youth living in the United States face additional race-related challenges that can impede their social, educational, and mental health (Erikson, 1994). Oftentimes, institutions such as public schools, recreation agencies, and the justice system contribute to these challenges: first, by implementing policies that further distance Black youth from the outcomes achieved by white youth. Second, by failing to provide culturally relevant practices that meet the specific needs of Black youth. Recognizing these disparities, grassroots movements in Black communities adopted Rites of Passage (ROP) programs as a means of preparing Black youth for adulthood in the United States of America. The primary goal of ROP programs is to neutralize the negative patterns induced by the social forces that continue to marginalize African Americans (Warfield-Coppock, 1992). Theoretical support for the ROP model can be found in the social justice youth development framework that emphasizes the importance of helping youth recognizing the traumatic histories associated with factors such as racism, helping youth heal through engagement in culturally appropriate programs and services, and assisting them in developing a critical consciousness for moving forward (Ginwright, 2010). Using an Afrocentric lens, this ROP model has been found to provide protective factors for African American youth while promoting their positive development (Pinckney et al., 2011). Furthermore, in recent years, faith-based organizations, parks and recreation districts, and schools have begun implementing ROP programs for Black youth. Still, this is an understudied concept generally and has gone virtually unnoticed in leisure studies (Pinckney et al., 2011). Reflecting on data collected during a national scan of ROP programs, the authors 1) provide an overview of the current state of Black youth living in the United States, 2) highlight the potential of ROP programs to contribute to positive youth development, 3) introduce seven characteristics of ROP programs that contribute to improved outcomes for Black youth, and 4) provide managerial and research implications that can assist in expanding our understanding of ROP programs. Altogether the findings from this scan provide a path for assisting Black youth in overcoming systemic barriers to their development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)173-193
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Park and Recreation Administration
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management
  • Urban Studies
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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