Making Black Lives Matter: Conjuring and Creative Place-Making in an Age of Austerity

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In Houston’s Third Ward and Chicago’s Greater Grand Crossing neighborhood, Black artists and activists and their allies combine conjuring and creative place-making in projects that fuse economic development with deepened social cohesion. Like the Black Lives Matter movement, Project Row Houses in Houston and the Rebuild Foundation’s Stony Island Arts Bank in Chicago respond to the urgent needs of aggrieved communities in an era of austerity. They engage in practices, processes, and productions that hone and refine individual and collective capacities for finding value in undervalued places and, by extension, in undervalued people. They promote deliberative talk and face-to-face decision-making about the problems that Black people face. They set in motion dynamics that teach people to find something left to love in themselves and others in a society that can often make everyone feel unlovable. They envision and enact plans for reconstituting society and social relations from the bottom up on the basis of values directly antithetical to the dominant logics of racialized capitalism.

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... Artists such as Rick Lowe, who founded Project Row House in Houston, and Theaster Gates, founder of the Rebuild Foundation in Chicago, use socially engaged art to celebrate Black culture and offer exciting pathways pairing art with community-embedded adaptive reuse. 40 Candy Chang has inspired public engagement in a range of vacant spaces. FIG. ...
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I wrote this chapter in 2020 (for Erica Avrami's edited book on preservation, sustainability, and equity) to readers in the near future. I ask the many actors who comprise preservation as it exists today about areas of progress by 2021 and beyond. I define preservation in terms of the institutions that scaffold and give shape to preservation. Preservation is all of the following and more: a system of governmental programs and regulations; a set of private actors that has the potential to invest in and contribute to collective good or harm it; a network of assistance and advocacy through the nonprofit sector; and a field of knowledge about the built environment constituted by educators and academic research. In this chapter, I ask if the actors within this system, set, network, and field have embraced a wider agenda that includes care for the built environment and action toward equitable local recovery and climate action. Are we contributing to equitable opportunities through support and expansion of skilled green jobs? Are we helping to build a more robust and creative imagination and awareness of the built environment and inspired action toward addressing crises of public health, housing, economy, and climate change? The following are policy considerations and proposals that could contribute to important transformations both within preservation and within a larger network of actors. I propose and discuss a series of questions or ‘problem sets’ for the preservation of the future to consider, looking back. These arrays of evaluation, written to policymakers, professionals, and the public and are organized into these domains of action: Green and Equitable Recovery for Climate Action; Re-building Alliances and Equity Preservation; Conservation, Circular Cities, and the Paradox of Thrift; Public Imagination, Visibility, and Remembrance; Transformation or Maintenance of the Status Quo. My hope is that this chapter will soon become antiquated, as policymakers and professionals, scholars and students, are able to provide robust answers to these queries. May the crises of today become a period of distant memories of the obstacles eventually overcome – a time that future generations pause to learn from.
In the United States, charter school proliferation remains a top priority for neoliberal education reformers and their private sector allies. Such schools are owned and run by private operators yet receive public funding, resulting in large transfers of public assets into private hands. Co-location facilitates this process by providing charters rent-free space within existing public school buildings. The author argues that New York’s 2014 co-location reform, which guarantees co-location or rental assistance for the city’s charter schools, produces school space in ways that create new circuits for the accumulation of capital by the private sector, while at the same time putting into circulation hegemonic imaginations of the relationship of race to school space. Co-location reform enlists school space within neoliberalism’s color-blind and meritocratic racial ideology: reformers like New York Governor Andrew Cuomo “don’t care who you are” because achievement is seen as the result of hard work and good choices made in free markets, and co-location will extend educational markets to families of color who have heretofore been excluded. Using the co-location of Success Academy Charter Schools as a case, the author argues that co-location reform, animated by a “white spatial imaginary,” both obscures and exploits the racialized process of organized abandonment that underwrites neoliberal capitalism.
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