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April 14, 2009

youth voices and gentrification

(In San Diego for the American Education Research Association) In 2005, CIRCLE was funded by the Cricket Island Foundation to make grants to youth-led teams of community researchers. We argued that research was a powerful form of civic and political action, especially when youth gave the results away to their communities. Doing research was not only good for kids; they could also produce excellent results if they used qualitative methods and local knowledge.

Applicants came from all over the country. One successful group was Cabrini Connections, a grassroots organization in Chicago's most famous public housing project. As the youth show in this video--an outgrowth of our grant--Carbrini is famous for violence but is also a three-dimensional community and a lifelong home. It is now threatened by gentrification.

For several years, I also helped to select applicants for micro-level "citizen journalism" grants through the New Voices project. Applicants proposed to build websites or create broadcast shows about local issues. And I helped to judge the Case Foundation's Make it Your Own Awards, which supported citizen-centered local work. In all these competitions--for grassroots or youth-led research, deliberation, or media production--a frequent theme was gentrification, and a rich source of strong applicants was Chicago.

I suppose the gentry will retreat again, now that housing prices are falling. But when the story is told of urban America from 1995-2005, an important theme will be the ways that shrinking poor neighborhoods organized to express their views, preserve their memories, and study their issues. Chicago will loom especially large in that history.

April 14, 2009 4:53 PM | category: none


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