young, white, and in detroit: gentrification implications

http://current.com/e/88996181/en_US
Video from: Feministing – Detroit, Gentrification and Good-ass Political Hip-hop

“First-stage gentrifiers” are economically- and socially-marginal “trend setters”. Sociologically, these people are young and have low incomes while possessing the cultural capital (education and a job), characteristic of the suburban bourgeois. They often reside in communal (room-mate) households, and are more tolerant of the perceived evils of the city—crime, poor schools, insufficient public services, and few shops.

Am I a gentrifier? I’m young, educated, low-income, and living in a house with 3 other young people. Uh oh! Since moving to Detroit I have considered what socio-economic consequences I could have on the current population and cityscape. My fiance and I have had many discussions about gentrification and what it means for Detroit. The definition I will be using:

Gentrification denotes the socio-cultural changes in an area resulting from wealthier people buying housing property in a less prosperous community. Consequent to gentrification, the average income increases and average family size decreases in the community, which may result in the informal economic eviction of the lower-income residents, because of increased rents, house prices, and property taxes. This type of population change reduces industrial land use when it is redeveloped for commerce and housing. In addition, new businesses, catering to a more affluent base of consumers, tend to move into formerly blighted areas, further increasing the appeal to more affluent migrants and decreasing the accessibility to less wealthy natives.

I live in the University District, which like most of Detroit is now a majority black community, but that wasn’t always the case. The District has a long history from farmland to annexation with the city, to development as a model community where, “homes could never be sold to or used by persons other than ‘of white or Caucasian race.'” Following the riots of 1967 and full blown white flight to suburban areas, black families began moving into the neighborhood. I live in a home who’s family has a long history of living in the area, contributing to the community, and working with the labor movement.

Being a gentrifier in Detroit has a serious implication when tied to the city’s past. That implication is born of the history of racial segregation and violence in the city of Detroit and the Detroit metro area. Public policy and popular perception of black people systematically marginalized and segregated populations based on race. The extended outcome of those causes can be seen with Michigan’s “blackest” city: Detroit residing a stone’s throw away from its “whitest” city: Livonia. Because of this historical disenfranchisement of the black community in Detroit, gentrification is all that much more a hard topic in a city facing difficult economic development.

Young Detroit

Recently NPR carried a story from Model D, an online news magazine that seeks to create a new narrative for Detroit (they also wrote about gentrification in 2005). The story was about a Detroit neighborhood soccer (futbol) league. Initially I thought it was incredible, but then realized that this was a snapshot of the growing gentrification of Detroit as I noticed in the video that nearly all of the participants were young and white. Many were there for the excitement of working in Detroit for non-profits and other social ventures. A band of “first-stage” gentrifiers? On the flipside how is Detroit supposed to innovate and grow without an influx of young and creative people? How can Detroit bring in excited youth, who are often white and more established, without fueling gentrification or the continued disenfranchisement of the majority black population?

Gentrification is happening mostly in areas around Wayne State University, the historic Corktown neighborhood, and neighborhoods near the Riverfront. The argument that these empty places in Detroit aren’t displacing anyone lacks a long-term vision. The city is beginning to see an increase in the number of “first-stage” gentrifiers and simply what follows is a second and third stage where eventually the first and second stage gentrifiers are displaced themselves by lawyers, physicians, and bankers. While all stages of gentrifiers are displacing the “native” populations of these areas by way of their socio-economic power. Is gentrification a natural fluctuation of the urban landscape? Can gentrification do any good?

Is Gentrification Growth?

No, if you look at the face value of gentrification and its broad economic impact, then sure gentrification is growth. However, when you factor in community and the effects on people – gentrification never equals growth, rather displacement.

Nothing good can come of gentrification. There is a minimal increase in tax dollars being sent to the city government, but that has little impact when (for now) the business dollars are being invested and collected in the suburbs surrounding Detroit. Communities don’t grow and get stronger, communities are changed by economic force through gentrification.

Looking Forward

The important step for Detroit now is to strengthen its community organizations and engage would be gentrifiers to support neighborhood development. Downtown redevelopment only benefits those with social mobility and that is not the majority of the Detroit population. Detroit’s black community has seen years of oppression and gentrifiers come in with a load of unearned privilege and resources.

First-stage gentrifiers (young, white, educated) can change the course for Detroit and instead work to be “allies in development” – partnering for stronger community organizations in black communities and actively engaging in local community efforts: shopping locally, attending block club meetings, and utilizing their privilege to highlight the progress that has been happening by native Detroiters as opposed to outsiders coming in with grand ideas for development.

If Detroit (and Michigan) is going to make it there can no longer be a black and white divide. There needs to be engagement from both populations where black communities have strong neighborhoods and white migrants recognize their privilege and work to assist community development that is already getting started. Get to know your neighbors and community, don’t create enclaves of white privilege, and support your community leaders!

“Detroit’s future is its neighborhoods” – Reframe Detroit

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Gray Panthers, Youth in Action, and the Non-Profit Industrial Complex (live blogging #USSF)

Here are summaries of some of the workshops I attended today:

Organizing Across Communities: Age & Youth in Action by the Gray Panthers of Metropolitan Washington

A workshop run by a sweet group of older (wise) people focused on bridging the gap of age in activism and building an intergenerational movement. Gray hair = gray panthers. Some critical thoughts on organizing with age in mind: 

  • #1 = Build Common Values!
  • utilize mentors – teach activist history, learn from older movements and successes
  • Listen! old and young listening to each other
  • Build skills – young activists can learn from old
  • Mutual RESPECT
  • Both young and old, ask each other for what is needed

Movement Building: Storytelling, Framing and Messaging by: Dream Act

Caught this workshop at the end with YP4 2008 Fellow, Sonia Guinansaca! Working with the Dream Act, Sonia spiced up the Youth Space (Basement of Cobo Hall near Michigan Rooms) with some excellent tips on telling your story to build support. She focused on making your cause personal. Awesome work! 

Growing Wings – Evolving out of the Nonprofit by: The Movement Strategy Center (MSC)

Tackling the concept of the Non-Profit Industrial Complex elegantly with a fun skit, one of the key members of the MSC who helped build the YP4 blueprint curriculum, Jidan Koon and colleagues from Serve the People, APAL, and Anak Bayan packed the 7th floor room of the Wayne State University Student Center. The building’s shifting and shaking could not deter the young leaders’ voices as they talked about operating within and without non-profits. Some key concepts to take away: 

  • Meet people where they are: house meetings, coffee shops, events at clubs
  • Connect to project with field trips
  • Create a collaborative/ cooperative organizational model
    • delegate responsibility
    • distribute leadership
    • collective decision-making/ agreements
    • build family/ organization culture of helping each other
    • create voluntary levels of involvement
  • Have a 40/60 gender rule to keep balance

global health is everyone’s responsibility

ban
People young and old across the US have connected with seven different communities across the African continent to support locally initiated health projects. Using the vibrant color of bananas and the enthusiasm of youth, a new nonprofit has grown to support the coming revolution in African health care.

It all began with one individual, Fr. Joseph Birungi, who had the dream of providing access to basic health care in a remote area where he worked. His dream was transferred on to me through his stories of those who died because they did not have access to basic health care. At the time I was a 14 year-old who knew little of the world beyond Michigan’s borders, but I was inspired to do something. Just entering high school, I was full of naive optimism with a goal to figure out how I could make an impact in the world. Although I was youthful, naive, and optimistic I had an incredible mentor, my mother. She helped me form basic assumptions that laid the foundation for my understanding of “global health as everyone’s responsibility. ”

One assumption that grew from my optimism was the belief that everyone had the potential to make a difference in the world. From Fr. Joseph to myself to my mother, the chain of individuals who embodied this grew to include hundreds of families, church congregations, school assemblies, and individuals from across the country working to fund an ambulance. These individuals, linked by a common cause, were able to raise over $67,000 in less than three months for the health center in Uganda.
It is easy for many people to take for granted the small things: clean water from a sink, medicine readily available in your cabinet, adequate food sources, etc. In the summer of 2002, I was able to traveled to Uganda. During my one-month stay I met and lived with the people who would benefit from the ambulance project. The people I met were so friendly and, even in their poverty, they wanted to share what little they had. I have seen that all people of the world share the same needs and wants. Everyone needs food, shelter, clean water, and necessary health care. We all want to know happiness, health and love. Parents everywhere want the best for their children and children want to learn and grow. But not everyone gets the same chance for success. And so keeping in mind the interdependent and similar nature of our world it is not so difficult to see “global health as everyone’s responsibility.”

As I graduated from high school with my classmates so did SCOUT BANANA. My friends began expanding our work into Chapters at colleges and universities across the US and Canada. This allowed our outreach to grow along with our ability to support more local projects. We became seriously focused on community-based solutions and empowering young people in the US to take responsible action when “making a difference” in Africa. Just because you have the means to do something doesn’t necessarily mean that you should. With an expanding support base and the desire to empower young people and community leaders we decided to pursue 501c3 status in order to better serve as a resource. Utilizing privilege in the US to connect communities in Africa with inspired students, SCOUT BANANA has been able to raise almost $200,000 to date and engage over 50,000 young people in partnering with African projects to provide access to basic health care.
SCOUT BANANA believes that global health is everyone’s responsibility and that everyone has the potential to make a difference. We look at global health issues systematically and our solutions are focused on revolutionizing structures as well as shifting paradigms of development thinking in regards to education, power, and privilege. We seek to create lasting social change in African health care and believe that solutions come directly from communities in need. SCOUT BANANA is dedicated to empowering community solutions as well as young people who want to responsibly make a difference in Africa. By connecting communities in long-term cooperative partnerships, we will build a movement dedicated to fundamental social change in which global health is everyone’s responsibility and every individual’s human right.

SCOUT BANANA is a nonprofit organization that works to provide access to basic health care in Africa. Focusing on community-based solutions and empowering community leaders as well as young people who want to make a difference in Africa, SCOUT BANANA is supporting the innovation in African health care. The organization connects student Chapters with local health project in Africa.

Learn more about the Chapter network & apply to launch a Chapter at your school HERE!

Written for Change.org’s Global Health Blog.

young people are the key drivers of social change

Harry S. Truman Scholarship Policy Proposal by: Alex B. Hill

Problem Statement
International development is a vast and complex issue. With over 18 million people dying each year from the lack of development assistance in health infrastructure something new needs to be done. Within the US there is a trend that foreign aid dollars are coming more from private NGOs and nonprofits as opposed to official government agencies. For so many years international development was tackled in simplified single-issue campaigns, which only created any effect in the short-term. This can be attributed to the fact that most Americans have a limited worldview. Most Americans have not traveled internationally, especially to developing countries. Therefore international development issues remain remote and abstract to most Americans. International development is a long-term issue. It is inherently complex and difficult to understand. There is no single enemy, and outcomes are rarely clear-cut or translatable through numbers. Faced with this challenge, some countries have opted to undertake broad-based efforts to build increased public understanding of development issues.4 There are a number of programs that promote volunteering and global engagement, such as the Peace Corps and Volunteers for Prosperity, through USA Freedom Corps. While these programs offer opportunities for highly educated and skilled Americans there exists a great void for those who are inspired and motivated, but may not have the degree or skills to qualify for these programs. The way to bring about increased political will on development issues in the US will lie in the creation of a long-term cultural and social movement, spurred by young people, to change the way in which many Americans think about international development. If this movement is to achieve change, it will be vital to increase the knowledge and understanding of development issues among the public.

Proposed Solution
Young people are the key drivers of social change. Considering this fact, there needs to be a policy focused on engaging young people in order to build a domestic constituency for international development that will create lasting connections. The policies on education and participation related to international development need to change. Young people have grown up with internet, global popular culture, and easier communications and travel, which has made the world smaller, more connected, and more accessible. Young people, specifically college students, have the opportunities to study abroad and are almost constantly encouraged to participate in global exchanges. Young people are left out of the equation when they exist as the greatest asset to making change in the development sector. If the problem is to be remedied then there needs to be a two-step plan. The first step needs to be increased support for a development curriculum in middle and high schools. This is where the US has fallen far behind Europe. European education efforts have focused their resources on offering learning initiatives for young people. Focusing on youth has been a key strategy of both European NGOs and government for many years. Countries that have embraced a long-term vision of youth-focused development education have the highest public awareness and support for development. According to the OECD the US spends less per capita on development education than any other OECD country. The second step needs to combine the learning activities of the school curriculum with action opportunities. The traditional classroom will not be enough to keep the engagement necessary to build an active constituency for change. Having action programs for youth will be a great method of measuring the success of the educational component. Pivotal to both steps will be increased support for a collaborative body dedicated to promoting development education. The US Development Education Alliance has been largely ineffective because it lacks support from both NGOs and the government agencies. This body needs to be coordinated at the national level and networked internationally so that efforts can be combined for maximum effect.

Major Obstacles/ Implementation Challenges
The major challenge facing this policy proposal is the US education system. In the US is largely determined locally, as opposed to Europe, where national governments set education policy standards. This will be the greatest difficulty in implementing a development-oriented curriculum. The next challenge will be government support. Having a coherent government platform to support development education will lend recognition and incredible support to the effort. Without a government backing, the policy will likely fail. Likewise, the US Development Education Alliance will need greater support from NGOs and government agencies, such as the USA Freedom Corps, Peace Corps, and USAID, in order to push for a change in policy.

Check out the Development Education Association, based out of the UK, it is a network of all development education organizations.