On May 2, the Department of American Studies hosted a panel discussion on gentrification titled “Interrogating the Wesleyan to New York City Pipeline.” The discussion began by recognizing displaced people—both indigenous and recently displaced—as the center of the conversation.
H. Shellae Versey, assistant professor of psychology, moderated the panel discussion. Her research focuses on health, the life course, work, place, social change, and intersections between gender and race. She is currently working on a spatial mapping project for changing neighborhoods and exploring the dynamics of social trends in cities.
At Wesleyan, Versey leads the Critical Health + Social Ecology (CH+SE) Lab. There, Versey and her students explore social ecologies and the context of neighborhoods, work, health, and gender by using surveys, epidemiological data, geospatial analytics, and community engagement to examine questions related to these themes.
Panelist Mario Hernandez, visiting assistant professor in sociology, is an urban sociologist who studies gentrification. His research situates the contemporary displacement of communities of color in “revitalizing” neighborhoods within a larger context of race and class relations in American cities. His recent research investigates the role of artists in the rapidly changing political, economic, and cultural life of Bushwick, a working-class neighborhood in Brooklyn.
Panelist Rob Robinson was a cofounder and member of the Leadership Committee of the Take Back the Land Movement and a staff volunteer at the National Economic and Social Rights Initiative (NESRI). He came into the land and housing movement after spending two years homeless on the streets of Miami and 10 months in a New York City Homeless shelter.
Panelist Imani Keith Henry is the founder and lead organizer for Equality for Flatbush (E4F), a people of color-led, multinational grassroots organization doing anti-police repression, affordable housing, and anti-gentrification organizing in Brooklyn neighborhoods Flatbush and East Flatbush. In 2014, E4F launched its Brooklyn-wide anti-displacement project “BEFORE IT’S GONE // TAKE IT BACK: Documenting Brooklyn – Fighting Gentrification.” E4F is the convening organization of The Brooklyn Anti-gentrification Network.
The panelists operationalized a working definition of the word “gentrification” and discussed how definitions should include displacement, but many contemporary definitions ignored this aspect. They also discussed whether ethical gentrification could occur, as well as how you could become involved in anti-displacement efforts and community initiatives aimed at preserving housing in the neighborhood you opt to move into.
The event was cosponsored by the Resource Center, Anthropology, African American Studies, and Allbritton Center. (Photos by Caroline Kravitz ’19)
Read more about the event in this May 7 Wesleyan Argus article.