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Racial and Gender Justice

Black Political Power: Mayors, Municipalities, and Money

Earlier this winter, Ron Dellums, mayor of Oakland, California did something that spoke volumes about the nature and effect of political power in that Bay Area city. In his annual State of the City address before a packed City Hall, he pointedly avoided using the “b” word—“b” as in black or black people. Instead, Dellums used a word more common in the modern progressive lexicon—the "d" word—diversity. It's a telling difference.

Although many cities have tried to solve their social problems simply by moving some of their residents out of the city, Dellums said that this was not going to happ
en on his watch. In Oakland, the mayor said, we celebrate and welcome diversity.

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Regionalism and Race

Now 2010 A speech by john a. powell

I grew up in Detroit, in a very large, very loving family. My family was from the South, where my parents were sharecroppers. Which meant, for the most part, they didn’t deal in the cash economy. They dealt in barter. If any of you don’t know about Mississippi and sharecroppers, it’s poorer than poor. Although, I didn’t realize we were poor until I left to go to college at Stanford.

Growing up on the east side of Detroit, I used to hear about all these white people but I couldn’t see very many of them. So I thought it was a myth, until I got to Stanford. Then I started getting a perspective of the community that I had lived in.

In my childhood neighborhood you now see a lot of vacant lots. They are not parks or “open space.” In Detroit, about one-third of the lots—and the houses—are vacant. Today, the average cost of a house is $6,000. Needless to say, the tax base has completely eroded. The people who have left are the people with resources who would help the tax base. They’ve left behind an infrastructure built for two million people that is serving less than a million. The school system has recently been given the dubious honor of being the worst in the country. So, I would say that I grew up in a place where there was declining opportunity—where the chance of succeeding was constantly moving further and further away.

My family had moved to Detroit from the South for the opportunity, but opportunity moved away. Not arbitrarily, but through planning, and the use of public resources to redistribute opportunity in such a way that once again, many families like mine were living in a situation of declining and low opportunity.

john a. powell: Regionalism and Race

john a. powell is the executive director of the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Ohio State University. He also holds the Williams Chair in Civil Rights and Civil Liberties at the Moritz College of Law. This article is an edited excerpt of a speech given at Urban Habitat’s Social Equity Caucus State of the Region Convening on January 15, 2010.


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I grew up in Detroit, in a very large, very loving family. My family was from the South, where my parents were sharecroppers. Which meant, for the most part, they didn’t deal in the cash economy. They dealt in barter. If any of you don’t know about Mississippi and sharecroppers, it’s poorer than poor. Although, I didn’t realize we were poor until I left to go to college at Stanford.

Growing up on the east side of Detroit, I used to hear about all these white people but I couldn’t see very many of them. So I thought it was a myth, until I got to Stanford. Then I started getting a perspective of the community that I had lived in.

In my childhood neighborhood you now see a lot of vacant lots. They are not parks or “open space.” In Detroit, about one-third of the lots—and the houses—are vacant. Today, the average cost of a house is $6,000. Needless to say, the tax base has completely eroded. The people who have left are the people with resources who would help the tax base. They’ve left behind an infrastructure built for two million people that is serving less than a million. The school system has recently been given the dubious honor of being the worst in the country. So, I would say that I grew up in a place where there was declining opportunity—where the chance of succeeding was constantly moving further and further away.

Carl Anthony: Earth Day and Environmental Justice - Then and Now

Carl Anthony co-founded Race, Poverty and the Environment in 1990. In this interview with RP&E editor B. Jesse Clarke, Anthony shares his reflections on some of the key milestones that led to the creation of the Journal and its role in the ever-evolving environmental justice movement. Recorded at the studios of the National Radio Project, this interview introduces Radio RP&E—Podcasts and Broadcasts from the national journal of social and environmental justice. Read an edited excerpt below or listen to the full interview.  http://new.reimaginerpe.org/carl-anthony-on-earth-day-founding-of-rpe

Carl Anthony 17-1 Jesse Clarke:  Can you talk a little bit about where the environmental movement was on Earth Day 1970?

Carl Anthony: Earth Day 1970 was started, in part, as a result of the work of Rachel Carson who wrote Silent Spring in 1962. That book and similar research on the effects of DDT sparked a growing interest in the environment that went beyond protecting wildlife and open spaces. In some ways, it was paradoxical, because it became a powerful protest movement that was also distancing itself from issues of race and social justice.

Some proponents of environmentalism sought to use it to put a closure on the struggles of the 1960s and launch a new kind of consciousness about the earth and the environment, without really addressing issues of social and racial justice. But in fact, all these movements were interrelated. Many people, for innumerable reasons, were really upset with the dominant society and the way in which it was destroying both culture and places. Indeed, the new environmental movement owed something to the civil rights movement.

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