“The end is in the beginning, but lies ahead” – Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man
On February 26th as part of Gallatin’s black nerd apocalypse: Black History Month 2018; the Urban Democracy Lab co-sponsored Coding While Black: Artificial Intelligence, Computing, and Data in a Racialized World. Coding While Black was a conversation between NYU professor Charlton McIlwain and artist and professor Stephanie Dinkins. The event was introduced by Gallatin professor Sybil Cooksey. Afterwards, each speaker discussed their work, offered a few remarks and engaged in a discussion. This was followed by some questions and a reception with cheese and adorable tiny carrots, marbles of technology in their own right.
On Monday November 6th, Gallatin’s Urban Democracy Lab (UDL) hosted Miriam Greenberg, Penny Lewis, and Daniel Aldana Cohen, contributors to the new book, The City is the Factory: New Solidarities and Spatial Strategies in an Urban Age. The conversation dived deeply into what would constitute a truly sustainable city. This panel honed in on the exciting prospects of progress that exist in the future of cities, focusing on the connection between urban longevity, labour rights and disaster relief response.
This was one of the questions posed by Ashley Dawson, an author and member of a panel on Friday, November 3, 2017 panel, Urban Futures. The conversation, held at the CUNY graduate center, was sponsored by The Center for the Humanities. Kendra Sullivan, the associate director of The Center for the Humanities, kicked off the event by introducing the speakers. The panel also featured architect Catherine Seavitt, environmental activist Mychal Johnson, and urban theorist/author David Harvey. The discussion centered around the current and “extreme” state of cities, the progress that has or hasn’t been made since Hurricane Sandy, and what prospects for radical transformation lie in the cities of the future.
The Lower East Side’s City Lore gallery exhibits and “preserves the grassroots, cultural heritage of NYC” through art showings and screenings. They recently hosted two important films on interrelated themes affecting the lives of young people of color. They screened ‘GET LITE’ on June 17th, 2017 on a dance subculture; as well as that of WHOSE STREETS on October 11th, 2017 on the organization behind the Black Lives Matter movement and quality of life policing.
GET LITE exhibits the art of litefeet, “Litefeet is the new American dance; a dance done by hustlers and dreamers qua criminals; a dance of ambition and talent… a dance of underprivileged youth looking for a break in a city that criminalizes their movements”. “WHOSE STREETS” is a first-hand exposè of the continued police violence which followed the murder of teenager Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson on August 9th 2014. Directors Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis feature several of the voices involved in the initial rise of the prominent Black Lives Matter movement. While WHOSE STREETS reshapes the narrative of mainstream media by focusing on the glaring malpractice of the police force in Ferguson, Missouri and highlighting the immense accomplishments of grassroots organizing, GET LITE uses the art form of Litefeet to frame a conversation on the criminalization of non-white youth in New York city.
Gentrification is a notoriously nebulous, complicated, and heated topic that is difficult to define and link historically. It is also something that is necessarily defined in terms of place, because it is so specific to the space that it is occurring in, and yet it is universal and follows similar patterns in many cities across the United States and the world. It is also, as Moskowitz shows clearly, a violent act, predicated on systems of oppression and colonization that have persisted for centuries. As Moskowitz says with regards to New York City, his hometown, “It became clear that for most poor New Yorkers, gentrification wasn’t about some ethereal change in neighborhood character. It was about mass evictions, about violence, about the decimation of decades-old cultures” (4).
Citizen Jane: Battle for the City directed by Matt Tyrnauer was release in the spring of 2017. The film details the life and work of the author and activist Jane Jacobs. After seeing Citizen Jane at IFC this summer, Gallatin Students and Urban Democracy Lab Student Advisory Board members Arielle Hersh and Luis Aguasviva sat down to discuss the film and the contradictory legacies of Jane Jacobs and Robert Moses. The film can currently be watched on Amazon Video or iTunes.
Luis Aguasviva (LA): Let’s begin by addressing the narrative presented in Citizen Jane Jane: The Battle for the City of Jane Jacobs (the hero) vs. Robert Moses (the villain).
Arielle Hersh (AH): Yeah, it’s very prevalent.
LA: It was framed as a David vs. Goliath story.The film directly attributes Robert Moses’s “demise” to Jacobs’s organizing efforts that stop Moses’s building projects in Washington Square Park and the West Village.
AH: I definitely agree that it oversimplifies what’s going on and breaks it down into that dichotomy, but at the same time I felt like it was a really good lens for someone coming to this story for the first time. It’s kind of the way I was introduced to urban planning – I remember hearing the story and seeing it set up as “Moses bad, Jacobs good, they go to battle, Jacobs wins, now we have planning.” We know that that’s not really what happened, but if you’re framing it for someone who isn’t really familiar with the story or with Jacobs, then it seemed like a good primer.
How can social movements succeed without centralized leadership? Michael Hardt tackles this question in his recent book Assembly, co-authored with Italian intellectual Antonio Negri. The Urban Democracy Lab co-sponsored a discussion of Assembly with Hardt on September 25, 2017. Hardt, best known for his trilogy of influential books co-written with Negri—Empire, Multitude, and Commonwealth—is a key thinker in political left.
Brazil is a nation of great political turmoil. From the dark years of the military dictatorship to continuous corruption and failed economic policies, Brazil is as famous for its political struggles as it is for caipirinhas. On Wednesday, April 12th, impeached President Dilma Rousseff gave a talk at The New School about economic crisis and democracy in Brazil.
Dilma Rousseff was the first female president of Brazil from 2011 until her impeachment in 2016. An economist, politician, and member of the Worker’s Party (PT), she won the democratic election with 54 million votes. But as any president of a nation, Dilma’s politics are highly contested and divide millions across Brazil. While she is popular for programs like Luz Para Todos (Light For All), which made electricity widely available, she is highly criticized for corruption, such as her involvement in the Petrobras scandal. Her alleged hiding of budgetary deficits to win re-election in 2014 and poor economic policies that contributed to severe recession led to her impeachment in 2016, putting “dracula” Michel Temer, as one person in the Audience called him, in the Presidential seat. Continue reading →
With dramatic shifts like rent hikes, sprawling urban redevelopment, and tenant displacement occurring throughout the world’s cities, the Urban Democracy Lab’s Student Advisory Board hosted a teach-in at the Gallatin student lounge on March 21st pertaining to the topic of gentrification. In order to unpack the term that is so frequently discussed by both academics and urbanites all around the world, the Student Advisory Board hosted a panel featuring NYU Wagner Professor Jewell Jackson McCabe, Gallatin Professor and Urban Democracy Lab Associate Director Becky Amato, and Gallatin Junior Anamika Jain. Aree Worawongwasu of the Urban Democracy Lab Student Advisory Board moderated. Continue reading →
A variety of activists, community organizers, academics and data practitioners came together on Cooper Square this past weekend for a day-long symposium called “Humanizing Data: Data, Humanities, and the City.” Co-sponsored by the Urban Democracy Lab, NYU Gallatin, NYU Shanghai Center for Data Science and Analytics, Asian/Pacific/American Institute at NYU, and the Institute for Public Knowledge, the April 8 event explored how urban humanities can be both enhanced and complicated by innovative data-centric, digitized projects. Continue reading →
The “Carboniferous”: Climate and Social Justice in NYC event––held in November 2016 by the Institute for Public Knowledge and co-sponsored by the Urban Democracy Lab––was an impassioned discussion of climate change, urban housing, and social justice. The question of the night, posited by the speakers, was how climate justice is an issue of social justice, the two inseparable in their complexities. Continue reading →
On Saturday, November 12th, I went to an event sponsored by Arts & Democracy on Cultural Organizing for Community Change. I attended most of the day, and will share the experience of the three workshops I participated in. We all picked one workshop in each session after a brief pitch from facilitators, and every workshop used creative activities to help build a sense of community around NYC. Activists, artists, and community leaders of all sorts joined and expressed their passion and ideas for making the world a better place. Continue reading →