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Fighting racial segregation one neighborhood at a time

Pathstone Foundation speakers’ forum addresses work to be done

By: Andrea Deckert//July 10, 2023

Fighting racial segregation one neighborhood at a time

Pathstone Foundation speakers’ forum addresses work to be done

By: Andrea Deckert//July 10, 2023//

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When the city embarked on the Inner Loop North Transformation project a few years ago, a group of residents on both sides of the highway banded together to ensure the project resulted in an equitable space that was accessible for all.

The group — called Hinge Neighbors — used the inner loop as a hinge point to connect two distinct communities that may never have come together under different circumstances.

One community was largely comprised of affluent, white residents, while the other was made up of Black and Brown residents with lower incomes.

The neighbors were able to drive change by working together, with a focus on creating respectable housing, inviting streetscapes, walkability, green spaces and social/cultural activities.

“You can design and create the neighborhood you want to see,” said Shawn Dunwoody, vice president of Hinge Neighbors.

Dunwoody

He spoke about the group and its impact at a recent speaker’s forum presented by the Pathstone Foundation.

Dunwoody was joined by other community organizers and two prominent authors who discussed residential segregation and strategies that can be pursued to redress segregation in communities.

Taking action in the way Hinge Neighbors did, is one way a community can fight racial segregation in communities, according to Richard and Leah Rothstein, who were the keynote speakers at the Pathstone event.

“There’s a lot of options to choose from and any one is the right one to start with,” Leah Rothstein said.

The Rothsteins — who are father and daughter — discussed their new book, entitled “Just Action: How to Challenge Segregation Enacted Under The Color Of Law.” Richard Rothstein also penned the book’s predecessor, “The Color of Law,” which demonstrates that residential segregation was created by racially explicit and unconstitutional government policy.

The Rothsteins believe by starting with achievable local victories, a national movement could be created to remedy the unconstitutional racial landscape.

Among the ideas discussed was to ask banks and credit unions to consider rent payments when determining one’s credit score, they noted, which would make more people eligible for mortgages.

Another way to make local change is for communities to create a community land trust, which is a private, nonprofit organization that owns land on behalf of a community, promoting housing affordability and sustainable development and mitigating historical inequities in homeownership and wealth building.

In Rochester, that work is being done by City Roots, which is working to secure permanent affordable housing for all city neighborhoods.

Education is also key, they said.

James

“Locally, the antiracist curriculum project is helping to that end,” said Kesha James, who serves as its co-executive director.

The project aims to empower students, educators and communities throughout Monroe County with instructional resources about their local history of racism and civil rights.

The antiracist curriculum project spearheaded resistance mapping, which is a collaborative digital humanities project focused on how the places of Monroe County have been shaped by histories of institutional racism and collective community resistance.

Castro

The goal is to cultivate more informed and engaged community members to build a more just and equitable society, she said.

For those interested in doing more to end residential segregation, Pathstone recommends several options, such as reaching out to elected representatives to express concerns about the lack of affordable housing and work with local officials to push for changes in zoning regulations, incentives for affordable housing development and the allocation of resources toward affordable housing initiatives.

Alex Castro, Pathstone CEO, said while data shows the Rochester community has become more tolerant of diversity, there is still more to be done.

“Now is no time to rest,” he said.

[email protected] / (585) 653-4021

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