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This month we welcome April Khadijah Inniss, MD, MSc, the Director of Community-Engaged Research at King Boston. Follow along to learn her work, its impact, and what’s on the horizon for our November research spotlight.

Your research background

My background is both as a pediatrician and mixed methods researcher; my clinical care background has shaped the way I view research and the kinds of projects I prioritize. It really all started working alongside my dear Mom, who was a community health ambassador at the Boston Public Health Commission when I was growing up. From her, I started shaping an understanding of and deeper curiosity about health inequity and how it explains the disparities we were witnessing on the ground.

I’ve gone on to work as a researcher both in academia and industry, primarily on projects examining racial and ethnic health disparities solutions, and other projects that explored the impact of media exposures on adult and child health. For 5 years, I was the Director of Research & Evaluation at The Message, a Boston-based, youth-facing media literacy startup, and I’ve also worked as a freelance research analyst at other companies and organizations. One major highlight of my research though has been an Internship in Research & Evaluation at Sesame Street in New York, NY.

What has your research been on and its impact?

The research agenda we’re shaping here at King Boston is a living agenda, shaped by our community engagement – for us, it’s absolutely mission-critical to keep a pulse on what’s important to the community, what are the priorities of the community, particularly folks or groups whose voices have traditionally been relegated to the margins. For example, we’re currently partnering with students from Northeastern and UMass-Boston on a harm report that will support our city and state advocacy work around reparations. This report has already had an impact by supporting testimony in a historic reparation hearing with the Boston City Council Civil Rights Committee last month. Additionally, this report will support community conversations about reparations as we prioritize specific areas for collective redress.

How do you see research contributing to the King Boston mission and vision?

King Boston envisions a radically inclusive and equitable Boston where BIPOC thrives, grounded in joy and wellbeing. Research is a key piece of our theory and change, alongside community organizing and arts & culture to ultimately impact public policy. Research enables us to bring fresh perspective and dialogue to old problems, expose and describe new ones, and — my favorite — generate and test solutions that promote equity. Undergirding our research approach is our strong belief that BIPOC communities hold vast community cultural wealth that has historically been plundered, devalued, and ignored. For example, I look to Onesimus, the slave owned by Cotton Mather, and his woefully undervalued contribution to vaccine science. But because this knowledge and experience with inoculation came from a Black man, it was meant with deep skepticism and resistance. I wonder about the other Onesimus out there today, in the form of individuals or even communities, who hold the precious, groundbreaking knowledge and solutions to address some of our most intractable social ills.

What research projects or collaborations are on the horizon?

I’m excited to share that we’re activating in a few key areas this fiscal year — for example, we’re tracking antiracist- and equity-aimed legislation at the federal level, and across the 50 states, and 400 municipalities. Right now, this includes proposals for reparations for slavery, which is one current area of involvement for us. A preliminary analysis has shown a massive uptick in 2021 in proposals for reparations for slavery across a dozen or so states, and about half of those states that are newer to reparations efforts. And of course, there’s also been more activity around HR 40 in the securing of additional sponsors for that bill. As a service to our growing coalition partners, our legislative tracking is going to be a source of strategic learnings and up-to-date information on what’s happening with reparations across the country.