Urban Reconstruction 2017

The motivation for this working group is to transform the landscape of ideas and push the boundaries of political action as our nation’s urban communities continue to battle the policy failures of recent decades. The crises of lead poisoning of its water supply and the anteceding impacts of disinvestment and long-standing deep poverty in places like Flint, Michigan, together with the police killings of black and brown men and women in Ferguson, Baltimore, Chicago, and beyond have brought to the fore enduring structures of racial, economic, and spatial inequality and the utter inadequacies of extant policy to deal with them. More troubling still, a half century has passed since we have had any new conceptual frame or policy agenda for dealing with racialized poverty (e.g. “War on Poverty”).

How do we understand the causes and consequences of racialized and concentrated poverty in the 21st century? What are new frameworks to help name and resolve the “Flints and Fergusons” in America? How does the failure of the state as well as corporate power contribute to circumstances such as Flint or Ferguson? Is there a way to conceptualize reparations as a part of the solution and what is an overarching “Urban Reconstruction” agenda for the 21st century? What opportunities and challenges do we need to account for given the new political reality in which we find ourselves? Finally, what are the new campaigns, constituencies, cultural work, and coalition constructions required for this moment? These questions demand a new multi-dimensional understanding of racialized poverty and injustice, including new frameworks and strategies to advance racial and economic justice and prosperity.

We propose to do just that by bringing together a cohort of religious leaders, advocates and activists, and scholarly experts who are leaders in their respective fields and have already done tremendous work related to racialized poverty, disinvestment, and predation.

This gathering will be transformative in several respects. Most importantly, it crosses the aisles that often divide academics from faith leaders, activists from writers and policy entrepreneurs. We aim to generate new ideas, concepts, and research and policy agendas to understand and undo concentrated poverty. But we also envisage creating a space for a marriage between the innovative ideas of thought leaders with the pragmatics of organizing that takes place on the ground. By providing an entrepreneurial space for imagination and collaboration, we hope to arrive at “deep strategic breakthroughs” that are needed to confront enduring poverty and predation.

This working group is by invitation only.


Working Group Participants:

Andrea Batista Schlesinger, Deputy Director of U.S. Programs, The Open Society Foundations

Reginald Dwayne Betts, Liman Fellow at the New Haven Office of Public Defenders and author of three books, most recently the collection of poems, Bastards of the Reagan Era

Rev. Traci Blackmon, Acting Executive Minister of Justice & Witness Ministries of the United Church of Christ and Senior Pastor of Christ the King United Church of Christ in Florissant, MO

Iva E. Carruthers, Founding Trustee and General Secretary of the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference (SDPC), an interdenominational organization within the African American faith tradition focused on social justice issues

Rev. Delman L. Coates, Senior Pastor of Mt. Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton, MO and Founder and President of the Black Church Center for Justice & Equality

Shoshana Davidoff-Gore, Senior Student in American Studies and Research Assistant for Vesla Weaver, Yale University

Ronald (Ronnie) Galvin, Senior Advisor, the Center for Community Change (CCC)

Jennifer Klein, Professor of History, Yale University

Jennifer Knox, Lead Organizer and Author, Washington Interfaith Network

Kica Matos, Director of Immigrant Rights and Racial Justice, the Center for Community Change

Anthony Newby, Executive Director, Neighborhoods Organizing for Change

Zachary Norris, Executive Director, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and a former director of our Books Not Bars campaign

Andrew V. Papachristos, Associate Professor in the Departments of Sociology, Public Health, and Law (adjunct), Yale University

Steven Pitts, Associate Chair at the Labor Center, University of California, Berkeley

Carmen Rojas, CEO of The Workers Lab, an innovation lab that invests in entrepreneurs, community organizers, and technologists to develop new ways to build power for working people in the U.S.

Charlene Sinclair, Director of Reinvestment, Center for Community Change (CCC)

Christina Swarns, Litigation Director, NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc.

Dorian T. Warren, President of the Center for Community Change Action (CCCA) and Vice-President of the Center for Community Change (CCC), and Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute

Tanya Watkins, Lead Organizer and Acting Executive Director, Southsiders Organized for Unity & Liberation (SOUL)

Vesla Mae Weaver, Associate Professor in the Departments of Political Science and African American Studies, and Director of the ISPS Center for the Study of Inequality, Yale University

Frederick Wherry, Professor of Sociology and Co-Director of the Center for Cultural Sociology, and Faculty Fellow at the Institution for Social & Policy Studies, Yale University

Maya Wiley, Senior Vice President for Social Justice, The New School and the Henry Cohen Professor of Urban Policy and Management at the New School’s Milano School of International Affairs, Management & Urban Policy, and Chair of the New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) – the independent oversight agency for the City’s Police Department