Positioned to handle the "peaks and valleys": Narratives of Black and spiritual students attending PWIs

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The interrelatedness of spirituality and race has been understudied in higher education (McGuire et al., 2017; Patton & McClure, 2009; Watson, 2006). Whereas existing scholarship has indicated religion and spirituality have been found to be important for Black college students (Chae et al., 2004), there is a need to distinguish between religion and spirituality (Paredes-Collins & Collins, 2011). Although religion may still be highly significant for some Black college students, growing evidence points to a shift in the general population away from formalized religion to one of individualized spirituality (Streib, 2008). Therefore, the current study sought to explore the intersection of racial and spiritual identities for Black undergraduate students and understand how self-identified Black and spiritual students experience support while attending predominantly white institutions (PWIs). A conceptual framework that included the radical healing framework (French et al., 2020) and Black liberation theology discourse (Cone, 1977) was used to frame the current study. In this critical constructivist narrative study, semistructured interviews and visual data served as data sources. The collected data from 13 Black and spiritual undergraduate students attending PWIs uncovered knowledge about the intersection of racial and spiritual identities. Specifically, findings illuminated Black and spiritual students’ definitions of spirituality, identification of on- and off-campus sources of support, and revelation into the emotions and feelings experienced by Black and spiritual students from encounters with people and spaces. Through an analytical approach of restorying, a parable was created to (re)present participants’ narratives. Findings from this study offer implications for student affairs’ practice and research. Student affairs practitioners are recommended to curate and maintain a list of on- and off-campus spaces, expand curricular and co-curricular opportunities to discuss race and spirituality, and increase agency for faculty and staff to address racial and spiritual identities with students. Future research should seek to study the intersection of racial and spiritual identities among graduate students, explore spirituality without a Christian lens, consider other institutional contexts outside of PWIs, probe into intersections of other marginalized social identities, and attend to these topics outside of an ongoing global health pandemic.