Desmond Patton’s Work Featured on A&E’s “Secret Life of a Gang Girl: The Untold Story”

May 20 @ 10:29 pm

The episode examines the life and death of gang member Gakirah Barnes, who had been a subject of Patton’s research.

Airing this Thursday, May 23 at 9:00 p.m. on A&E, Secret Life of a Gang Girl: The Untold Story tells the true tale of Chicago’s notorious gang assassin Gakirah Barnes, who effectively wielded social media networks against her enemies. The episode features School of Social Work Professor Dr. Desmond Patton and his research on how social media shapes and facilitates youth and gang violence.

“My hope is that this feature provides for more complex storytelling,” Patton told us. “That the research that I do moves beyond academia and has some impact on how we think about the lives of black children based on the narratives they leave on social media.”

The episode isn’t just an excellent opportunity for Patton to showcase his work on a national platform. More importantly, it’s a chance for the audience to absorb the larger lessons emanating from his research.

“I want the audience to truly wrestle with who gets to be human in our society,” Patton said. “I want them to stop and think about language and how its weaponized, particularly against youth of color.”

Secret Life of a Gang Girl is the final installment of A&E’s larger investigative six-episode series The Untold Story. According to the network’s press release, the series aims to “take an unfiltered look at the often-unseen stories of people and events that have had a profound impact on our modern culture and society.” Previous episodes covered topics such as the hunt for JonBenét Ramsey’s killer, dating app horror stories, and the persistence of forced child marriage in America.


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