Organizations within the Bronx building Geographic community power-
They believe that “community members are the experts and that the community should develop its own vision,” and their mission includes the sentiment that “We deserve to build neighborhoods for the people that live here by the people that live here so that we can live with dignity and respect.” BY focussing on geographic community power, they also hope to preserve “jobs for local residents that allow pathways of advancement.”
- New Settlement Apartments: https://newsettlement.org
They collaborate with community residents and develops partnerships to create services and opportunities that “celebrate the inherent dignity and potential of individuals and families.” Apartment locations Includes services for student leadership, self-advocacy, and are guided by a mission to create “a vibrant, diverse and equitable community in which all individuals and families have the power to make quality choices about education, employment, housing, wellness and creative expression” through every project.
- Mother on the Move (MOM) and Youth on the Move (YOM): http://cdp.urbanjustice.org/sites/default/files/ChangsStartswithUs_03mar10.pdf
MOM initiated a three part community visionary process in 2009 as a response to gentrification in order to create alternatives that would build rather than erode community in the Bronx. They are working to increase community spaces and residential services like adding more after-school programs, youth centers, and educational and development classes for adults.
YOM formed in response to Mayor Bloomberg’s centralization of NYC schools, an act they say limited community input and involvement and schools. Outraged because they felt curriculums “did not react with the cultural diversity of individual neighborhoods,” YOM has campaigned and two student success centers in the Bronx as well established several social justice clubs in local high schools.
Organizations building power in places outside of the Bronx-
- The Lower Eastside Girl’s Club: https://www.girlsclub.org
They work to reframe “the field of youth development as a ‘whole community’ issue, and to construct a building to house that vision.” Located in Lower East Manhattan, their 35,00 square foot facilities offers programs for art, science, leadership, entrepreneurship, and wellness open to all middle and high school girls from the area. The location was founded by Lyn Pentecost in 1996 to fill the void of opportunities for girls.
- The Baltimore Algebra Project: http://hazenfoundation.org/baltimore-algebra-project/
Their Foundation concentrates on the education and development of young people through math literacy and empowerment in Chicago. BAP is currently working on a model of community control of schools that they will present to the Maryland legislature. BAP is youth run and known for improving educational outcomes by representing the interests of black youth.
- Logan Square Neighborhood Association: https://www.lsna.net/about-page
They are “a community-based organization advancing diversity, leader development, and models for engagement as the catalysts for social justice,” that began in Chicago. Since their founding 1962 they have slowly worked there way outward, into wider- Illinoi. Their strategy is broad, aimed at positively impacting the neighborhood.
What Organizing Efforts to Identify Geographic Communities Seek, what their Obstacles are, and what they’ve Achieved in the Bronx and Beyond
My project is focused on integrative community building, where all people in a community must be involved in projects toward cohesion and power. It takes a village to raise children, and this unifier means many organizations that successfully bring a place together are run by youth, for youth, or both. Exceptions, like Bronx Community Vision, include a generational approach that will benefit today’s children even if their project is not explicitly run by or for them.
These organizations have organized by utilizing space, conversation, and respect. Similar to Dewey’s vision of participatory democracy beginning in the neighborhood, projects that build a place must be of, for, and about that place. In the Bronx, where gentrification heightens the threat school choice already enacts on geographic community, organizers begin conversations by making sure members know their voices matter to help them identify that they should be the one’s influencing decisions about where they live. Establishing power based in place is most literal in the Bronx, because the places where they live as well the ties that bind them together are under attack from gentrifiers and school choice initiatives, respectively. Outside of the Bronx, context is equally important to organizing for power, though stressors vary. Projects like the Baltimore Algebra Project who seek community control of schools do so by appreciating all that particular areas— and the people of them— offer to learning.
Challenges facing organizers nationally include misinformation, elected officials without regard for bottom up educational strategy— including Betsy Devos’s school choice initiatives— and “survivalist” attitudes (Love). In the Bronx specifically, an ongoing affordable housing crisis is forcing residents to live in places where they are not safe that do not promote personal and professional development. Organizations like MOM are fighting this phenomena by campaigns for tenants rights and better management.
In order to effectively address these challenges efforts are rooted in shared experiences that build respect between residents and for themselves. Each of these organizations offers either forums or events that necessitate people share space. Intersecting issues like gentrification and community health help motivate moments where people come together, and thus build power dually; by addressing problems through dialog, places build togetherness they can mobilize to do even more.
Members involved in these community organizations benefit by building place attachment, a fondness that improves one’s experience of the place where they live. Organizations that are based in a community of participants are powerful because they begin with what the people know, empower member that they have the expertise to define what is wrong in their particular context and do something about it, improving their experience of their community as is and working for better future circumstances.