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Organizing for a New Social Horizon: Reflecting on the Over-the-Rhine People’s Movement for Equality and Justice (1970-2020)

Authors: James C. Fraser*, University of Minnesota, Jean-Paul D. Addie, Georgia State University
Topics: Urban Geography, Ethnicity and Race, Geographic Thought
Keywords: gentrification, raced-space, urban social movements
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

July 2019 was a banner month for unproblematic tales of gentrification success. First, the Federal Reserve Bank on Philadelphia (FRBP) published a widely-circulated report stating that in cities across the country the negative impacts of gentrification on prior neighborhood residents have been, in fact, overstated, and that class-based urban development (e.g., gentrification) was a net benefit for all. Simultaneously, a report led by Bruce Katz argued that after decades of neighborhood decline, disinvestment, and racial violence, Cincinnati had hit upon a winning formula by reviving the troubled 'inner-city' neighborhood of Over-the-Rhine (OTR) through a "private-led model for revitalizing urban neighborhoods." What is remarkable it that both these accounts portray gentrification as a legible solution to 'take back' "places and settings that are viewed as chaotic or rebellious" (Appadurai 1996: p. 184). In response, we argue that particular racialized and classed aesthetics saturate the abstract space of policymakers and planners as they move forward specific projects, even though these imaginations present themselves to Others as patently self-conscious. Collaborating with community organizers, this paper re-centers the work of the Over-the-Rhine People's Movement for Equality and Justice in conversations about shaping more just and equitable urban neigborhoods. We document a history of the Movement since the 1970s and critically assess how their tactics and strategies have transformed over time. Our analysis foregrounds not only the material and political dimensions of their work, but the inextricably linked epistemological labor that organizing performs to disrupt the order of things.

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