Online Program

Successes from community organizing to prevent neighborhood displacement

Tuesday, November 5, 2013 : 12:50 p.m. - 1:10 p.m.

Ashley Bachelder, MPH, MPS, CPH, Office of Community Based Public Health, Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, AR
Neil Sealy, Arkansas Community Organizations, Little Rock, AR
The Environmental Justice Movement emerged in reaction to wrongful acts compelling grassroots communities to demand a voice in decisions affecting them. Unjust United States policies allowing hundreds of communities to be uprooted and displaced persist today. Federally supported urban renewal, promoted as economic development, has disproportionately displaced minority and low-income neighborhoods. Residential displacement has been tied to negative health impacts including decreased mental health; loss of social networks, collective efficacy, and financial assets; and poor developmental outcomes. While urban development is purported to enhance infrastructures and improve quality of life, communities affected by involuntary displacement are usually excluded from procedures that shape those outcomes. In 2011, hundreds of predominantly African American, low-income households in an urban Arkansas community came under threat of displacement by eminent domain for the creation of a biotechnology research park sponsored by the local universities and municipality. Excluded from the planning process, residents and others actively opposed the project. Persistent, grassroots community organizing was successful in altering the developer's strong willed intent to displace the communities. While this story is still unfolding, citizens have successfully engaged decision makers in the sponsoring agencies to require that non-residential sites be considered. Against the backdrop of development projects in which powerful political and corporate influences prevail in causing displacement, this case has relevance for all communities facing similar challenges. Lessons learned and strategies used from this Arkansas story will be discussed; including the importance of coalition building, storytelling, media engagement, and use of citizen engagement and social capital.

Learning Areas:

Advocacy for health and health education
Public health or related public policy

Learning Objectives:
Explain why neighborhood displacement is a public health concern. Discuss ways that grassroots citizens can participate in community organizing to influence events that affect their quality of life.

Keyword(s): Social Activism, Community Capacity

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a recent graduate (December 2012) of an accredited Master of Public Health program. My student capstone project focused on research about the topic of this abstract as well participant observation in the community advocacy described. I am currently a Research Assistant at an accredited College of Public Health for a community engagement health disparities project.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.