It is easy to see how the “old guard” running the Urban Revitalization programs of the 1950s and 1960s believed that under-resourced communities were a “blight” on society to be eradicated. The onus was largely misplaced and attributed to the perceived characteristics of the tenants who lived in these communities rather than owning up to the socio-political structures that created the conditions many hard-working families found themselves living in.
From an outside perspective, it’s easy to see how real estate developers view the process of urban renewal through the lens of profit (profit in their pocket): tax cuts, investment funding, and state-subsidized contracts ensure a high-profit margin and return on investment.
Look a little deeper and you’ll find the resourcefulness of hundreds of families who have learned how to adapt in order to survive in an underfunded and often ignored urban communities. Their grit, determination, and ingenuity provides a network of support for their neighbors in ways that can teach valuable life lessons about hospitality, compassion, and caring for one’s neighbors.
Venture a little closer in proximity and you’ll discover local historians who herald the culture, flavors, and traditions of the neighborhood, carrying the pride, hope, and resilience of its people like a banner for the younger generations to use as a launchpad.
Open pathways to collaboration and you’ll uncover residents deeply committed to the success of their community and the local economy so that every generation is able to dream big, reach higher, and achieve better than the one that preceded it.
Spend time walking the streets intent of fostering relationships and you will understand the desire of the people to act as a bridge-builder between the “old” culture of the neighborhood with the “new” ways being forced upon them – folks who desire to be a part of the process, who can improve and guide the process with a unique historical lens because they have lived through unsuccessful attempts to “revitalize” communities. Their voice is primed with valuable experience that can enhance the process.
From a posture of learning, meeting with local civic, faith, and community leaders will reveal a visionary approach to urban renewal that is rooted in inclusion, advocating for equal participation in renewal efforts so that it is truly equitable, sustainable, just and fair for all members of the community.
Yet, as urban youth leaders, you already know this.
You can point to a handful of local leaders who have been on the front lines of creating opportunities for the community, for decades.
You know the hardship of watching young teens who sacrifice a lot in order to earn a good education so that they can attend community college (and beyond).
You know the emotional highs and lows of youth who are hustling hard in order to pay their own way and help support their family.
You See the Resilience First Hand
As a direct observer, you—the urban leader—have the privilege of walking alongside youth in the community, who may feel discouraged by the perceived lack of opportunity available to them. Continue to tap into their resilience by helping them see the unlimited possibilities because God goes before them making a way.
As a mentor, you fuel the spark that will allow youth to rise to their full potential. Continue to fan the flames of believing that God-sized dreams matter and can be achieved by leaning into the Spirit.
As a spiritual parental figure, you are speaking life over a generation of youth who will change the world in the unique ways they are gifted, called, and impassioned by God to do so. Continue to nurture that beautiful resilience within them, honing it as a valuable tool that will enable them to set and achieve goals in life.
Celebrate this resilience, in every way. Allow the stories of inspiring individuals like Eric and Shawana Bobby Lopez and Javier Reyes to be a source of inspiration for connecting with the ways that God is already present, active, and at work in your communities, fanning the flame of urban resilience.
Artist/Muralist, Cameron ‘Camer1’ Moberg
CAMER1 is in the Urban Youth Workers family and has been a part of our annual National Conference for years. The mural below mirrors the grit that many black women possess within urban communities across the United States. Thanks Cam for allowing us to share your art, once again!
"Cameron ‘Camer1’ Moberg is a self-taught artist who paints to bring hope. He fell in love with graffiti as a child when his brother introduced him to the art form. Residing in San Francisco with his wife and two sons, Cameron paints murals, canvases, and teaches workshops on the history of graffiti as well as the fundamentals such as can control.”
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